REVIEWED: Medusa Uploaded

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Medusa Uploaded by Emily Devenport (YA/SF Novel, May 2018).

I class this one as YA SF mainly because the lead character, Oichi, is herself a young adult. She’s a common worker (a ‘worm’ to use the insulting local venacular) aboard a generational starship over a century into a sublight voyage to what those aboard hope will be a safe new home planet. The ship holds around 300,000 people, but the so-called Executive Clans run the place with self-indulgence and a ruthlessness that their obsessively ‘polite’ standards utterly fail to conceal. This small ‘upper crust’ gets all their society’s perks, while the common folk struggle to get by.

Dissent is instantly crushed (a quick shove out the nearest airlock will do that pretty effectively). But discontent simmers beneath the surface and secrets, undercover power plays and conspiracies abound.

Inevitably, Oichi runs afoul of the Powers that Be and gets spaced. But she’s rescued by Medusa, one of a class of robotic AI’s the ruling elites incorrectly thought they’d destroyed (they were considered a threat to the Execs’ autocratic rule). Medusa and her like are designed to each bond mentally with a single person, and provides an instant interface with all the ships computers, comm systems and sensors. Encircling Oichi before she can suffocate in space, Medusa amounts to a self-propelled spacesuit, as well as a powerful weapon.

Retreating across the starship’s surface, Medusa brings Oichi to a forgotten section of the giant craft, where more of her kind wait to be turned on and join with chosen humans. Thus a conspiracy to overthrow the self-satisfied Executives begins. Oichi enlists a growing number of co-conspirators (including eventually some of the more decent-minded/lower-level Executives). Each bonds with another of the Medusas, and even a bunch of children become involved. Oichi kills when she has to, becoming by her own account a serial murderer, and other dangerous characters emerge, including an alien force pursuing the ship with one or more agents aboard. Mysterious alien entities on the world they hope will be their salvation also come into the picture, confusing things for Oichi.

Oichi and her allies plot a takeover that doesn’t quite come off, yet things work out in the end and those who survive the upheaval and multiple betrayals get freedom–and a personal Medusa for his/her own (or will as soon as they’ve built enough of the things).

In sheer setting and plot senses, this is a pretty conventional set-up: The sublight generation ship that over time is dominated by a self-important/smug/dictatorial elite and has to be overthrown for the good of all. The author incorporates a good deal of high-tech into the mix, the Medusas first and foremost. The world/ship is also well described and Oichi is  a believable and pleasantly snarky narrator (for a confessed murderer or not). Other characters are interesting, good or bad, or (fortunately) a mostly credible blend of both.

I found this one quite an enjoyable read. Aimed at YA readers, possibly, but worth the SF-loving adult readers’ notice as well.

 

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