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Arkwright
by Allen Steele
Tor, $15.99 TPB, 332pp
Published: March 2017

This is a fond homage to Robert Heinlein and all the pulps from the classic years. An aging science fiction writer, now dying, has decided to finally make good on his life-long dream to visit the stars.  With his considerable estate, generated by successful sales of his long-running- scif-fi series The Galaxy Patrol, he decides to fund a foundation.  This foundation is to privately fund an interstellar ship to take humans to another planet. The idea is that the foundation funding other private enterprises to develop the needed technology would provide income to the foundation along with byproducts of the technology that could be marketed.  And it worked.  Within a couple generations the ship was ready – a tiny ship stocked with all the genes it needed to seed a new world with plants, animals and…humans.

The story then jumps generations and touches briefly on descendants of Nathan Arkwright, the founder.  We watch his descendants as the ship continues its long journey to the target system.  And then the story takes another huge leap…which I will leave without spoilers.

The first part of the book gives us Nathan’s early life amid fandom, then his granddaughter who was to become the Foundation’s leader even though she was an unbeliever to begin with.  Then we see his great and great-great grandchildren and their participation in the project until nearly the end – when the ship finally arrives and there is no reason to continue…

Well…what to say… It was an easy read, the characters were gentle and inoffensive.  There was never any great conflict.  It was an interesting idea – how to colonize distant systems when a “generation ship” isn’t technologically or societally possible.

The last part of the book could have been a separate story wherein the author seemed intent on examining the question of how societies evolve when children are left alone – a bit of “Lord of the Flies.”

Overall, I felt the story was dissatisfying.  A hodge-podge of characters with no goals.  There was no conflict resolution, therefore, no climax.  And I’m sure we all feel the same when there is no climax…   ~~  Catherine Book

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