A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers, published 03 March 2020.
I thought this book was about a diverse Found Family crew of space cops cruising the solar system, chasing smugglers, getting into scrapes and working as a team to solve a crime against humanity. That would have been “My Jam”.
It’s the year 2435. After being on the brink of extinction, humankind has managed to conquer the solar system. There’s space travel through wormholes and a serum that expands the human lifespan. Without this serum space exploration would not have been possible, nor the re-population of Earth. What was that extinction event that was prevented?
The patent to the serum is held by a corporation. In order to be eligible for the serum, you have to either work for the corporation or enter the military services for 40 years. Indentured servitude?
Earth, by the way, has one governmental body and seems to have reached world peace. Why is there a need for military services? There is the Navy, which is highly skilled in combat but does space exploration. Then there is the NEOG, Near Earth Orbital Guard. Another group of highly trained people who are the space coast guard, rescuing stranded ships, apprehending smugglers (I nearly wrote pirates, but alas no space pirates). No idea what the Army and the Air Force do in 2435, maybe that’s part of the other two books. Also, I do understand that there is a need for the NEOG, but why are there military services if there is world peace/solar system peace/humankind peace and no aliens that might attack?
To show off the military’s prowess at war there are Boarding Games where the NEOG and the Navy send teams that fight against each other in different single combat and team combat disciplines. It’s televised all over the solar system and the event of the year. Panem et circes – just without the panem – the gladiator teams of the future. It’s interesting, but we never get to see why the individual protagonists want to win. We never find out why it is so important for the team to win. What motivates them, other than boasting rights until the next games?
All the training for the games and the actual games take up so many pages in the book that the real plot seems like the commercial break between the rather lacklustre fight scenes. The much more interesting plot line is that smugglers are bringing knock-off serum into the system. Knock-off lifespan enhancing serum that might actually drastically shorten the lifespan of its users.
I am sure lots of people will like this book/trilogy. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook, but I also noted that this book is flawed. It praises combat and the military services (in a world with universal peace), it has a strange religious sub-plot, and I am not at all comfortable with the corporation’s way of dealing out the serum. All in all it was more “Not My Jam” and I am not going to continue reading the series.
2/5 Harpy Eagles