Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Saturn Returns by Sean Williams

Saturn Returns, the first book of Astropolis, marks a pivotal time in the career of Sean Williams. Like the title metaphor, it seems the author himself is going through a personal homecoming. After the dark debacle of the Books of the Cataclysm, Sean has revisited the path where he started ... and, dare I say, where he belongs.

Apart from the humbling cover, I was immediately struck by the title: Saturn Returns. It gels. From the beginning, the story rolls off the synapses in much the same way. While the term 'layers are stripped away' is probably used all too frequently in reviews, it certainly applies here. Perhaps more than anywhere else. For our protagonist, Imre Bergamasc, is truly lost after awakening in the body of a female hundreds of years after his own murder. His resurrection is overseen by the Jinc, a gestalt hive mind intelligence seeking God itself on the fringes of space.

One could say this is the premise: After awakening two-hundred years after death, a former mercenary commander tries to recover his own memory and discovers the possibility that he caused the fall of civilization. This, however, cannot quite measure the sum of its parts. In science fiction, ideas have long held sway, often eclipsing characters and their motivations. But Saturn Returns is about people. Real people. Setting itself up as an original and grandiose masterpiece of space opera.

During his day, defined by the Continuum (be it the Federation or Hegemony, one has to name a future galactic empire), Imre Bregamasc led a motley crew of elite super soldiers on campaigns spanning centuries. With great responsibility comes great conscience, and Imre is not immune to the pitfalls of leadership, with burgeoning memories indicating that he, at times, certainly wasn't 'a decent man.'

With honesty and aplomb Sean shows us that wars will never be won: it's our conditioning, mirroring the current global situation. No matter how hard we travel or how hard we evolve, human beings, at their very basic, will always be warring machines.

During the reading of this tome, knowing the author was only a couple of suburbs away when composing, it electrified me.

You too will be electrified.