Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Silver Ships (Silver Ships #1), by S.H. Jucha

Scott Jucha, ISBN 9780990594024, June 2015

Alex Racine operates an asteroid tug boat, Outward Bound, in the asteroid belt of human colony system of New Terra. It's been over seven hundred years since their ancestors arrived fleeing a badly damaged Earth, and had a rough arrival that cost them many of their original colonists. It's been a hundred years since they recovered  enough technology to get back into space. They've colonized another world in their system, and are exploiting the asteroid belt.

What they haven't had is any contact with Earth or anyone else since they arrived. It's quite a surprise when Racine sees an unfamiliar ship coming from, apparently, outside the system. This strange ship is badly damaged and doesn't respond to his radio calls, so he captures it with the tools he uses to capture asteroids, and investigates.

The Reveur is from Meridien, a human colony founded at about the same time as New Terra, but they didn't have the rough arrival of the New Terrans, and retained their technology, which has since advanced. They have, for instance, FTL drive, highly developed nanite technology, and real artificial intelligence. They have thriving colony worlds of their own.

The bad news is, the Reveur was attacked, at one of their colonies, by a completely unfamiliar ship, a sliver ovoid that didn't respond to any attempts at contact and did major damage with energy weapons unlike anything either Meridien or New Terra has. They were able to escape into FTL, but in an arbitrary direction and with major crew casualties. All the survivors are in stasis, while Juilien, the ship's SADE (Self Actualizing Digital Entity) controls the ship.

The New Terrans and the Meridiens, with very different cultures separated by seven centuries, face a major threat and need to come together to protect the only parts of the human race they can be sure still exist.

The first few pages aren't too compelling, as our introduction to Alex Racine is more than a bit Mary Sue-ish. He's really smart, he's really handsome, he invented an amazing new technique for getting asteroids to where they're needed while he was barely more than a kid. But then the story really starts, and things move along nicely. I very much liked the fact that neither New Terra nor Meridien is portrayed as a utopia or as obviously superior to the other. They both have real strengths and real weaknesses, and confronting the common enemy is going to depend on blending their resources, technology, and abilities together. The characters are individuals, too, good and bad, weak and strong, and there's a basic assumption that gender is just one more personal characteristic.

Overall, this is a well-written, enjoyable story. It is the first of a series, so there's more to come. While Hugo eligible for 2016, I wouldn't say it's award worthy--but I do hope to see more from Jucha. It's a promising start, and we can hope to see even better in the future.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.