Review: Astropolis Book One: Saturn Returns by Sean Williams (Orbit)

Title: Astropolis Book One: Saturn Returns
Author: Sean Williams
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 05 June 2008
Review Copy

If you’re a frequent or perhaps an infrequent visitor to this blog you’ll have probably noticed the lack of sci-fi. It’s not that I dislike sci-fi as such. It’s more that I don’t go out of my way to read it. I do however watch quite a bit of it and have done for quite a few years. I’ve never left school so fast as when Star Trek: Generations opened. The reason for enjoying watching rather than reading could be that showing something technological might be easier visually than descriptively or it could be that fantasy in fiction is just my thing.

How does this relate to Saturn Returns? I must admit I found it hard going at the start. Where a dead Imre Bergamasc is brought back to life by the Jinc who are hoovering space looking for proof of the existence of god. Imre then makes it his mission to solve the mystery of the Slow Wave and its devastating effect on the galaxy. A disaster he seems to play a very important part in.

But the plot wasn’t the part I was struggling with. It was the world building as Williams uses Imre’s memory loss and flash-backs and revelations to inform the reader as well as move the plot along. I guess I’m on the show not tell side of the fence and there is a little too much tell.

But then about half-way through all the plot/world-building falls away and the story gets going. And at that point I started getting into the mystery and the story that Williams was telling. I’d have preferred this state to have come a few pages earlier but at least it came.

The strange this is that as we’re with a main character who has a Swiss cheese memory we, and neither can he, be sure that what he remembers is 100% how it occurred. And Williams uses this to change the perspective on a key event when he reveals what actually happened. I enjoyed the reinterpretation and it added something to each of the characters. As the story progresses we Imre puts back together and the story is really a quest to find them and put his team back together.

In William’s galaxy humans have diversified both space and the mind. There are now Primes, Forts, Singletons amongst others. And they have more control of their bodies and how time is perceived. All this adds to an interesting and unique mix.

Overall I enjoyed the ideas and world that is presented, what makes it worth reading at the moment is the mystery element and how each of the character is more than they appear.

This is definitely an opening chapter to something deeper and more intriguing from what I can tell of the ending and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Imre and his little band next.



Reviews from other places:

Chris, The Book Swede

The SF Diplomat

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review

Big Dumb Object

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