Orbit, h/b, 325pp, Â£16.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
This clever yet relatively short tale is apparently set in the same universe as Strossâ€™ Saturnâ€™s Children, a book and universe Iâ€™m unfamiliar with. Regardless, this is a stand-alone story, set 5,000 years on from that, and itâ€™s all about money: fast money, medium money, and slow money.
I gather the author read David Graeberâ€™s Debt: The First 5,000 Years more than once, but basically: fast money is immediate cash exchanges, medium money is short-term investment like goods and labour (â€˜thingsâ€™ if you like), whilst slow money is the kind to outlast the fall and rise of whole generations and civilisations… And as it happens, the latter is also the kind thatâ€™s used to invest in generational starships and interstellar travel, funnily enough, and the founding of new colonies, etc.
Into this mix we have Krina Alizond-114 (direct descendant of lineage mater and financier Sondra Alizond-1) who is searching for her sister, one Ana Graulle-90, who seems to have disappeared on the ocean world of Shin-Tethys. And so it begins…
Told mainly in the form of a letter or journal, and full of exposition because of this, it is nonetheless still a very clever and slick piece of work, which weaves a wonderful space opera about the nature of money and debt, and the all-pervading power struggles for both, and even squeezes a â€˜quest for lost treasureâ€™ in there, too, just for fun as they say: the Atlantis Carnet. Oh yes, we also have privateers, piratical bat-like intergalactic insurance adjusters, space-going evangelistic churches, and an assortment of obscure water inhabitants and adaptive mermaids of a sort… the usual Strossian crowd, then?
This is a quite brilliant tale, and itâ€™s obvious that the author was enjoying himself as much as the reader does, even at one point committing the cardinal sin of switching voice/viewpoints halfway through one of the later chapters (page 287, since you asked). He gets away with it though, because this is great fun from start to finish. My only quibble? The ending is abrupt and leaves you nowhere to go, but otherwise this comes highly recommended as light but smart entertainment, in exchange for fast or medium money oâ€™ course 😉