The Creative Fire (Book One of Ruby's Song)
by Brenda Cooper
Cover Artist: John Picacio
Review by Mel Jacob
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616146849
Date: 06 November 2012 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Creative Fire, like the latest Niven collaboration, Bowl of Heaven, and takes place aboard a generations space ship, the Creative Fire. The people aboard are divided into strict groups identified by the color of their garments and their skills. Over time the rules have changed and there is no movement between levels. The grays, those at the bottom, want a larger share in the decision making, but those at higher levels resist.
The ship is returning to its original home after having stopped several places during its long voyage. So far as the crew knows, none of the other expeditions has ever returned. The crew isnít even sure what to expect when they reach home, provided they can keep the ship intact and functioning.
Ruby Martin, a gray, repairs robots, but yearns for more. Blessed with a beautiful voice and a stubborn streak, she questions the status quo. After a crisis destroys part of the ship, she meets a man from another level, and he tells her the ship is nearing the end of its voyage. She begs him to take her to his level, but he refuses.
The reds, the next level above the grays, bully and punish the grays. Some reds kill Ruby's best friend and she vows revenge. She wants answers about the ship and its history, especially after she discovers a video about a woman named Lila Red who led an earlier rebellion. That rebellion led to increased restrictions on the grays. Those in the higher levels depend of the grays to keep the ship running, for food, clothing, and all the necessities of life, but fear them because of their numbers.
Ruby sings the songs of the grays and composes her own. She learns more of the shipís history from an old man before he dies and hears of test. She wants to move to a higher level by passing the test. The rules once allowed such progression, but the current captain doesnít approve of it.
Eventually, the man Ruby met comes for her and takes to his level. He is an entertainment and PR producer and grooms her for stardom. Her songs are loved by almost everyone and makes her the focus of a rebellion.
Ruby becomes a femme fatale and a magnet for powerful men. She never loses sight of her goal of freeing the grays and allowing more participation in decision making. People appear to like Ruby and the goal for which she fights. Others see her as a major threat and would destroy her and her friends.
Some aspects of the novel appear contrived. The motivations of some of the characters are not entirely clear. Power changes often lead to new oppressors. What happens next to Ruby and the Creative Fire remains for Brenda Cooper to tell us. This is the first book of the Rubyís Song series and the present ending leaves plenty of scope the sequel or sequels to follow.