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More Than Human (Starshippers) (Volume 1) Paperback – June 15, 2012
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About the Author
Mel Keegan's first novel, ICE, WIND AND FIRE, appeared with GMP as long ago as 1990. In the following years many other novels have appeared, including the sci-fi thrillers, DEATH'S HEAD and EQUINOX, which have become cult classics. DEATH'S HEAD was nominated for the mainstream "Science Fiction Hall of Fame," and the historical THE DECEIVERS won a Stonewall award. For almost a decade the Keegan novels were published by GMP (the Gay Men's Press, London), but after their merger with Prowler and later, Millivres, GMP became more or less 'dormant,' selling only old titles, and apparently publishing only those novels which had been in pre-press at the time of the merger. Eventually, Millivres discontinued its paperback division, and Mel turned to a local South Australian studio, DreamCraft, to manage his intellectual properties. A self-confessed science fiction and fantasy devotee, Keegan is known for novels across a wide range of subjects, from the historical to the future action-adventure. Mel lives in South Australia with an eccentric family and a variety of pets, and is closely associated with DreamCraft, where he's been known to work as a part-time, standby editor.
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The Gilgamesh is the only starship capable of making the five year journey to Earth, and it has been more than 20 years since its last visit. The crew are all heavily augmented and many of them were born and raised on Eidolon. As they wake up from their five year cryogenic hibernation, they have no idea of the political situation that awaits them. Adrian Balfour is the government representative assigned to break the news to the crew that they’re all about to be enslaved. In truth, it’s the last thing he wants to do, but he has no idea how to save the people he idolized so much as a child he wanted to be one of them.
“More Than Human” is a fast-paced thriller wrapped up in a very interesting parable about bigotry. The Pure Light depicts those with cybernetic implants as somehow less than human, in the same way that Africans and other non-whites were dehumanized in the past to justify slavery. The point is made none too subtly, but without really distracting from the story.
What makes the story so readable are the characters. At the center of everything are Adrian and the Gilgamesh’s second-in-command Jason. The two men from very different worlds are quite believable. Their undeniable attraction to each other is a big part of what propels the plot along. They in turn are surrounded by a rich set of supporting characters, which is unusual in a novel this length, but something you come to expect from this author. If you’d like to sample some of Mel Keegan’s science fiction, but don’t want to commit to the Hellgate saga, then this is the book for you.
The first two chapters were enormous info-dumps. We're told, over and over, about the history of the Pure Light and what it means for enhanced humans, we're told again and again about how Adrian feels uncomfortable with everything and trapped, and we're told several times about how he idolizes the fifties. Are we actually shown anything? Does the author take us through a day in Adrian's normal life so that we can actually care about any of this? No. I felt very distant from the MCs throughout the book because of this info-dumping style.
The romance was so fast that it was unbelievable. I can buy insta-lust, but Jason and Adrian were going to get married after less than a week. That's just ridiculous to me.
Some scenes felt utterly pointless and very much like padding. There were also some strange stylistic choices, like "Jason ouched," which threw me out of the story several times.
The main issue with this book is that the reader is not shown anything. The story is told, but I found it impossible to become immersed in the characters or the world because of how repetitive and flat the writing was. They are racing against time to escape, and this by all rights should be riveting, but none of the tension or excitement actually gets into the story. Things just happen and then story ends. As a reader, I want to feel like the character's actions matter, but I didn't get that sense here.
The ideas presented are cool, but I feel like this book could benefit from a stiff concept edit to actually make the story pop.
Naturally, they have developed some new technologies including new ways to experience the pleasure of another.
My only fault is that it is far too short. I would love to know the wonders of the colony world and how Adrain and Jason grow in their relationship there.