I guess if an author plots out two or three books in advance, he or she can take the two or three stories and splice them together to make an epic space opera. The splicing in Reality Dysfunction (Part 1) gave me whiplash. First we’re introduced to Adamists, non-genetically-augmented humans who are trying to maintain their equality by smuggling highly illegal – and unstable – anti-matter. It doesn’t end well when the protectors of the galaxy – the Edenists, genetically-augmented humans – show up and blow them to bits.
The second story is about the Edenist captains, who are in communion with their sentient spaceships from birth and are technically immortal. They’ve traded in their beliefs to worship technology, placing themselves in the artificial intelligence of the habitat when they die. While the Adamists are deeply religious, the Edenists tolerate and pity them for their backwardness. We follow an Edenist family through their ship’s death and birthing process and involvement with the space navy.
The third story, the most exciting in my opinion, is the one about Adamist colonists trying to build a village and survive on a rugged new planet. While the writer enjoys highlighting the dark side (blood-thirsty convicts, a drunk priest, hunger, illness, etc.), the struggles of the colonists make the reader want to find out more about them.
The jumping between stories is the most distracting part about this book. By the time we finally got back to one of the three main stories (the first Adamist story becomes the tale of a treasure hunter searching for artifacts in an orbiting ring of ruins), I’d forgotten who particular people were. We’re also continually being introduced to secondary characters, but we never see them again.
I think if there had been a book about the colonists, a book about the treasure hunter, and one about the family of captains, I’d have gladly read all three. There’s very little to tie the three stories together until almost the end. The Edenist captain tries to catch the treasure hunter smuggling. The treasure hunter goes to the colony world to buy wood. Aside from being in the same part of the galaxy arm, there’s limited interaction.
On the newly colonized world, the juvenile delinquents break free of their servitude and kill the townspeople in the most grisly means possible (the writer likes this part). Established colonists on the planet steal and enslave people. An offshoot of the Edenists (the Serpents, intent on ruling the new world) are operating behind the scenes. Oh, and a non-corporeal race appears when the colonists try to kill the juvenile delinquents and turn the head sociopath into a super-being. Pretty exciting stuff.
So, if I were reading this book again, I’d read Story 1 first, then Story 2, etc. Having the three stories take place in one galaxy, doesn’t make them a continuous story. Even though all three bits are interesting (the treasure hunter’s girlfriend is a princess who runs a massive space station and loves him for his augmented sexual prowess), they compete with each other to the detriment of the overall story. Plus, I’m not sure I like any of the characters, except maybe for the bossy schoolmarm in the colonial village. The captains are snobs, the treasure hunter is only concerned about his ship and his…augmentation, the plastic princess is inexperienced, and most of the colonists are a bunch of wimps and fools. Perhaps the second or third book is about how they manage to come together and fight something.
I wasn’t sure who the antagonist was until almost the end. There are lots and lots of bad guys doing bad things. The non-corporeal aliens appear to be the adversaries – especially when they start destroying the colony through the remaining delinquents, but why an advanced alien race would involve themselves with a murderer remains a mystery. Even the juvenile delinquents begins to question their evilness. The Serpents, waiting for their chance to take over the colonists, fall prey to the unseen aliens and become, like the colonists, unkillable zombies intent on taking over the galaxy.
It’s a big, thick book with some great writing, but I spent most of the time wishing I’d kept a list of characters so I could figure out who was who.
I don’t think I’ll go looking for the other parts. I just didn’t care enough about the characters.