Fiction Reviews


Eve: The Empyrean Age

(2008) Tony Gonzales, Gollancz, 12.99, pbk, 520pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08035-5

This is a first novel and, as such, quite an undertaking, although the author takes no credit for the deep background history which was done by Keli Oskarsson and the original group of CCP founders from Iceland for the online world of Eve. So this novel is based upon an apparently mega-gaming universe of which I have no knowledge whatsoever. I assume this book is aimed at people familiar with the game and, no doubt, hoping to attract new users; although no details are supplied as to how to find Eve online.

We start with the coming to consciousness of a clone who does not possess the full memories of his originator, Falek Grange, and does not get this information due to an assassination attempt. His pod is subsequently picked up by a salvage ship, with a motley crew who only know it is valuable booty. Clones are called capsuleers throughout the book and one of their main uses is as ship pilots; being literally plugged into their ships. It may seem a petty complaint, but I had both immediate and subsequent difficulty with two instances of similar names (Vince and Victor, Marius and Magnus); there appeared to be no reason for this, but perhaps I'm just getting old and feeble-minded in that it gave me problems.

This universe is populated by humans and their elite - clones - therefore technically immortals. Most worlds are owned by mega-corporations and there are distinct empires and nationalities. The current Top Dogs are the Amarr, who actually enslave people of other nations (using drugs to ensure happy compliance) to carry out most of the work, whilst corporate management live in varying degrees of luxury. Tibus Heth, a downtrodden worker, launches a revolution that galvanises the Caldaran nation to literally rise up and rebel against its own management, and its hated enemy, the Galanteans. There are a number of strands to this novel: the 'blank' clone; Tibus Heth's revolution/war; the failing Minmatar Republic with its hidden depths; the Amarr, supreme but corrupt, with its goddess/queen; Concord, the 'multi-national' governing body; and a mysterious clone, The Broker. I was reminded somewhat of Frank Herbert's Dune series in the huge scale and scope of this novel, the many factions and forms of politics quite awesome; there is even a nasty Baron Harkonnen type.

With such a large cast and, at times, quite complex plots and ramifications, I suspect I did not fully engage with this universe. This is certainly not a bad book, but I just could not quite care what happened to anyone. The final chapters' reminders of a race only briefly alluded to previously (not exactly human), and future potential was quite irritating, rather than stimulating me, and almost calls into question the whole of the preceding novel.

Susanna Witch


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