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Orbit paperback £6.99
review by Ceri Jordan
When an alien ship thousands of miles long, and completely empty, is discovered drifting through space, humanity is the first to board it and attempt to unravel its mysteries. To finance their explorations, they take aboard passengers, human and alien, and before long the ship is a tourist attraction, home to millions of widely varied species. Presiding over them, part tour guides and part hereditary rulers, the Captains - genetically engineered humans capable of recovering from any injury and living for centuries. But when a select group of Captains are despatched to probe a mystery at the very core of the ship, they are plunged into a battle for survival in a hostile environment, and a power struggle that might unravel the true nature of the ship at last...
If you miss SF on the epic scale, then this is the book for you. Everything about Marrow is breathtakingly huge, from the decades of political machinations to the vast spaces of the ship itself. For a novel set entirely on one ship, it encompasses a startling range of habitats and societies, from the stern traditions of the Captains to the strangest of its alien passengers. This is a tale of world-changing events driven, as they always are, by the most personal of emotions - the love/hate of family members and the ambitions of men and women who have more power than they know what to do with.
By focusing on the rivalry of two of the explorer Captains, and its repercussions across the centuries, Reed keeps the drama rooted in human emotion. The conflict between personal loyalties and the pressures of duty are rendered convincingly, and despite the convenient near-indestructibility of his two heroines, we are drawn into their battles and their sufferings.
In a era of small-scale SF, Marrow is a welcome return to the 'sense of wonder' tradition, stirringly written and never afraid to challenge and astonish the reader. Highly recommended.
tZ Robert Reed's short story Watercolours is published in The ZONE #6
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