Roboteer - Alex Lamb

I feel I should start this review by saying that the copy I have of Roboteer is an ARC so it's quite possible (though pretty unlikely) that any of the things I mention could have changed between this version and the one now available to the reading public. 

 

I don't know what it is about a lot of science fiction writers, or at least the ones I come across (so please feel free to recommend me folks who don't fall into this trap) but they're often just not as good as fantasy writers when it comes to writing characterisation. And when you're talking about a book that's centred on things happening to one character having a ripple effect first on the other characters he's living and working with, then eventually on entire worlds, that's a problem.

 

The basic premise of Roboteer is that, in the future, Earth has colonised a number of planets and one of them (Galatea) uses genetic modification as standard to give people the enhancements they need for particular jobs. Our main character, Will, is one such individual and has been given enhancements that let him be inside computerised systems and control them with his mind. Galatea and Earth are in the middle of a war, which is partly due to the oddball religion that has taken over Earth - something cobbled together from a number of faiths but which views genetic modification as wrong (as well as education for women, among other things). 

 

Early on in the book, it's revealed that Earth have acquired alien technology (though this causes divisions within the Church between those who think it should be used, as a gift from the divine, and those who think it should be destroyed in secret) and are planning to use it to conquer Galatea and anyone else who doesn't fall into line. When Will and his fellow crew members are sent on a spy mission to discover the truth about this technology and grab some of it for Galatea if they can, they instead find out the source of that technology and that the civilisation responsible for it (who call themselves the Transcended) use it routinely as a test for other civilisations they encounter. They give Will a dubious gift, changing the way his brain works and leading him to the planetary system of the last civilisation they tested this way.

 

The rest of the plot for Roboteer (which I believe is due to be a trilogy) breaks down into whether or not Will can convince firstly his crew and then everyone else that the only way for humanity to survive is to use the Transcended technology wisely, rather than destructively. Naturally, this is not a straightforward thing to achieve, especially since during the time the Transcended are messing with Will's brain, Earth has effectively conquered Galatea (even if a big chunk of its population has fled).

 

So, it's an interesting enough story but seriously let down for me by the flatness of the characterisation across the board, not to mention the strong smell of testosterone all the way through. Of course, when you have one civilisation that eschews the education of women then you're 'naturally' going to have all men in positions of power and yet Galatea doesn't seem to be much better. The two female characters who are on the same ship as Will seem to be there to do little more than either die or be the putative love interest, they don't particularly have much to do outside those roles. In that way, Roboteer was a disappointment for me and that means I probably won't be bothering with the rest of this series, as well as thinking twice about this author's books in the future.