(2016) Alex Lamb, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk.551pp, ISBN 978-1-473-20611-3
This is the second book in the series, the first being Roboteer. I hadnít read Roboteer before I read this, and although Nemesis can be read as a standalone, I suspect it would be advantageous to read Roboteer first. To briefly sum it up: Humans had split into two groups, Earthers and Galateans. Galateans had better technology, but Earthers outnumbered them. There was a war, the Earthers discovered an alien technology which gave them the edge, and the Galateans sent a spy to find out what it was.
Nemesis is set thirty years after Roboteer. Itís a hard SF space opera set in a mid future where a lot has already happened - first contact has been and gone. Humans have access to alien technology, which is of course advanced far beyond anything we ourselves have created. Earth is dying, and those who remain are desperate to leave. The rich can buy themselves somewhere nice, and the poor have to take their chances. The easiest way for them to leave is to join one of the religious sects currently controlling the various colonies set up on other nearby planets. A future is created which is both familiar and yet not, perhaps suggesting that the more things change, they more they stay the same. However, most of this is merely a backdrop to the story.
It has been a long time since that first contact, and since the war between Earthers and Galateans ended, and predictably, the possibility of conflict is starting to grow. Alien neighbours donít seem like much of a threat when they disappear for several decades, and humans have always been good at picking fights with each other, and so it goes here. Remains of an ancient alien civilisation called the Fecund have been discovered on various colonised planets, and those who have found them do not want to share.
The key protagonist of Nemesis is a man called Mark, the adopted son of Will Monet, the protagonist from Roboteer. When a far off colony is destroyed by a previously unknown but incredibly powerful weapon, Will sends Mark to investigate. Mark is a Roboteer like his father, built to interface with complex machinery. It makes him different from those around him in a way that he struggles to overcome, as he is both superior and inferior. Mark is a challenging man, anti-social and lacking the ability and desire to connect with other people but forced into a situation where he has to learn how to function as part of a team when it becomes clear that things are not as they seem.
Lamb is particularly good at putting the reader firmly into his futuristic world, describing space ships, space travel and broken colonies with vivid detail. This is particularly evident in scenes from the book reminiscent of the sort of horror found in something like Event Horizon or Annihilation, where he plays very confidently with the grotesque.
The main issues I had with this book were that the pacing felt off in places, so the story didnít always move along quite as quickly as I would have liked which made it sometimes too easy to put down. Although this is hard SF and therefore the focus is on the science, I would have liked a little more depth to the characterisation as the book features a large cast, many of whom donít have particularly distinct personalities which sometimes made it difficult to follow the story. I also felt that the great conspiracy which underlies the plot was a little disappointing in the end. There is a lot going on in Nemesis, and it could have done with a bit less. Readers who enjoyed Coreyís 'Expanse' series will probably find a lot to like here.
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