Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact by Stephen Mark Norman
|Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact by Stephen Mark Norman|
|Genre: Science Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Hard sci fi and space opera combine in this look at re-evolved humans in the distant future. Humanity, it seems, is sentenced to either defy or submit to its greedy and aggressive DNA, no matter what the galaxy. Enjoyable stuff. Stephen was kind enough to answer some questions for us.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: January 2011|
|Publisher: Literary Cinema Company|
|External links: Author's website|
Four billion years after our Sun has become a red giant and died, taking all life with it, there are still humans in the universe. How so? By man-made panspermia. When Earth's civilisation realised it couldn't master long distance space travel in sufficient time to avoid annihilation, it sent out DNA probes filled with bacteria far out into space, to planets in the temperate zones of solar systems; planets that could potentially sustain life. And on eight planets, sustain life they did.
In the new galaxy, things are entirely recognisable to humans of today. Two superstates have emerged and are locked in a cold war. One is democratic and progressive, but the other is feudal and greedy for resources. Having burned through its own fossil fuels and damaged its planet beyond salvage through global warming, Tirune is looking to enslave the others. Only Alto Pannia can challenge it, but can Alto Pannia create a coalition of the willing in time?
Only with the help of a wizard, an archaeologist, a robot, a rebel, a princess, a slave, and a scientist...
Somewhere between hard sci-fi and space opera, Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact is part a story of the resistance against Tirune and part an exploration of the determinism of our DNA. The story of the new human civilisation mirrors the story of the old one so closely, you'd be forgiven for a few moments of depression about it all. We trash the ecosystems of some more worlds and we're slaves to capitalism all over again. But the book moves on with pace and its main characters fight the good fight for all they are worth and with great energy, so perhaps there will always be a few people willing to stand up and be counted.
I thought the whole premise of the book was really interesting and any criticisms I want to make are technical really - nothing that couldn't be put right with a jolly good edit. There's a great deal of exposition and explication, much of it repeated, and some of it needs to go. I wasn't keen on some of the dialogue tags - there's nothing wrong with said, which stays nicely in the background and doesn't distract the reader. The whole thing could do with a good proofing as some silly misspellings creep in from time to time.
Other than this, I thoroughly enjoyed Meklyan and the Fourth Piece of the Artefact and it did make me think. Are we humans really determined so thoroughly by our DNA? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over, no matter the epoch or the galaxy? Will we always need the few to fight for the communal good? I surely do hope not, but I can't help but worry.
My thanks to the Literary Cinema Company for sending the book.
If the combination of hard sci-fi and space opera floats your boat, you might also enjoy Saturn Returns by Sean Williams that looks more at individual identity than DNA determinism. We also loved Matter by Iain M Banks, The Lost Art by Simon Morden, and Earth Ascendant (Astropolis) by Sean Williams.
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Stephen Mark Norman was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.