The girl’s basketball team from the school in which I work made it to the state tournament last weekend. So you ask, what does that have to do with Sci-Fi? Well for me it meant spending roughly twelve hours on a school bus over three days riding back and forth to Lincoln, Nebraska where the tournament is held, which further means that I had the opportunity to get some reading done to pass the time. As an aside, reading helps to pass the time on a long trip very well. At an my rate, I read most of Autumn Kalquist’s bundle of Fractured Era stories during the ride to and from Lincoln. I could not have chosen better because these books held me mesmerized for the entire time.
The Legacy Code Bundle consists of three books that are set in a dystopian future in which the entire population of Earth, or at least what is left of it, has been forced to leave in search of another place where they can settle and rebuild civilization. There are several ships in which the people are traveling that have become generational ships moving from planet to planet gathering resources to make jump gates to traverse the light years.
Life aboard the ships is hard for the majority of the people as they used are assigned work mostly based on what their parents are. Some are workers that have hazardous jobs that often leave people maimed or even dead, while others inherit the commands of ships after serving as a kind of police force to uphold the rules that govern the fleet. At the head of everything is the president and a board that come from the various ships that meet when necessary. There are many aboard the ships that are not happy with their situations and become rebellious. Such people are considered traitors and the penalty for treason is being “airlocked,” or ejected from the ship after being summarily found guilty and stripped naked to preserve resources.
The specifics of the reason that the feet took to space some three-hundred years in the past are not specifically spelled out in this series at this point because most of the stories are centered on individuals rather than past circumstances.
The first of the three books is titled Better World and centers on a young woman who has just turned eighteen and is so unhappy with her life that she has decided to airlock herself. Maeve is stopped from committing suicide by her friend, Dritan, a fellow worker. She is determined to end her misery caused partly by the conditions on the ship, and partly because she is ridiculed for not being paired (married). One of the major reasons she is not paired is that she prefers the company of her own gender. When the opportunity arises, she volunteers for a mission to the planet Soren to begin setting up operations to gather raw materials to build a jump gate. The chances of surviving the mission are close to none, so she will probably accomplish what she has set out to do.
Legacy Code is the second book of the trilogy. This volume takes place a few years after the events of the previous book, but there is no mention of Maeve, but Dritan is prominent and we learn very early in the story that he has been paired with a woman named Era, a woman of some importance on the ship; she is an archivist, one of the people in charge of safeguarding the accumulated knowledge of humanity for use when the fleet reaches a new planet suitable for colonization.
Following a hull breach on the flagship of the fleet, the Paragon, a further investigation shows that it was not an accident and the crew that Dritan is working on is suspected. While Dritan himself is a loyal member of the fleet, happy to follow the rules and even happier that he is about to have a family, being on the team that made the defective repairs casts doubt on him. When one of Dritan’s crewmates attempts to assassinate the president’s daughter, Dritan steps in and talks the would be assassin down, but he is considered guilty by association and sent to work on the planet.
Meanwhile, Era goes to have an exam for the health of her unborn child and finds that the fetus has the “Defect,” and will have to be aborted. Following the exam, Era does some illegal research in her capacity as archivist and learns that there is a small possibility that her baby can be saved, which only manages to get her secretly airlocked.
An explosion on the planet causes a cave in in a cavern in which Dritan is working trapping and leaving him injured with little hope of rescue. All but given up for dead, Dritan remains determined to survive and escape almost certain death by keeping Era and their unborn child as his motivation.
The third and final book (so far) in the series is Paragon which picks up at the same time that Legacy Code ends. In this segment of the story, we learn that Dritan was sent to the planet to actually be killed and that the explosive that caused the cave in was no accident. We further see that there is corruption at the highest levels of the fleet’s government while those in power want to insure that they maintain power.
Era’s best friend, Zephyr works to find out why Era supposedly comitted suicide, which is the story that is being circulated. Zephyr knows better and her former boyfriend Tadeo is blocking every attempt to learn the truth. At the same time, Tadeo is also charged with looking into the activities of the traitors that were on Dritan’s crew and finds that they were plotting to destroy the Paragon with explosives that were smuggled onto the ship. Later when Tadeo figures out that there is actually a bomb planted on the most sensitive part of the ship, it becomes a race against time to prevent a major catastrophe, including the destruction of all of the accumulated knowledge of the human race.
All the while, Dritan continues working against all odds to get himself, and other survivors, out of the cavern.
While the story is great, I found that the characters in the story were all quite compelling in some way and with not a lot of background information on any of them. Almost all of the female characters were strong and self motivated. Maeve, for instance, only wanted to be in control of her own destiny, which was almost impossible while on board her ship. SHe did have a small support system in Dritan, who genuinely cared about her and didn’t want to lose her friendship. Era was in line to become the head of the Archives on board the Paragon until she was found out by the authorities. She was very determined to find the truth behind the dreaded “disease” that would cost the life of hers and Dritan’s child and finally paid for her quest with her life. Tadeo and his superior officer were knee deep in activities that were nothing more than simple corruption and became characters that one could have a great deal of contempt for, but in Tadeo’s case, he somewhat redeems himself by risking his own life to save the Paragon, and thousands of lives that would have otherwise would have been doomed, and might very well have sealed the fate of what was left of humanity. The one constant thread through all three books was Dritan. He is a person of very good character, falsely suspected of being a traitor and taking the consequences that went with those suspicions as just being his turn to do his part on the planet. One can only wonder, at this point, how Dritan’s attitude might change if and when he returns from the planet and finds that Era and his child are gone.
Not only are the main characters well written, but we get a very good picture of the supporting characters as well. Some are loyal to the cause, but are quickly becoming disillusioned because of the lack of answers, while others cover themselves with lies and treachery in various forms.
The writer also demonstrates great skill in giving the reader a feeling of extreme loneliness in a crowded situation. Whether it is because of a character who is looked down upon for not being paired when others think they should be which is indicated by being tattooed with one hand of an infinity symbol and being tagged as a “half,” or when a character is looking for answers, or when the preference of companionship is looked down upon.
All in all, this is a fine series of books with stories that should hold the attention of the reader. While on the aforementioned bus rides, the time went by like nothing as I read for the entire time finding myself surprised when we finally reached our destination.
While there have been no sequels since the publication, the end of Paragon is wide open for the story to continue, and it is my sincere hope that the author sees fit to continue the saga soon. I have also discovered that there are a couple of short stories that serve as prequels to this trilogy and am planning to read and report on those at a later date. Until then, I give these three stories my highest recommendations for excellent Sci-Fi reading.
Well, there it is…