by Sean Williams with Shane Dix
Review by Paul Haggerty
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013783
Date: 31 January, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The beginning of the book would probably have made much more sense if I'd had the opportunity to read the first book, but given a little time and effort, the unique natures of the beings known as the Exarchs and the Palmers can be grasped through their actions. The Exarchs are one person inhabiting numerous bodies, each unit adding to the processing power and sensory systems of the whole, a little like a Beowulf Cluster in computing. While each unit is capable of acting alone if need be, together they form a being far more powerful than the mere sum of their parts. And while the Exarchs are busy administering the galaxy on behalf of the Archon, the Palmers are people who have undergone genetic manipulation so that they can directly interface with their ships (called Cells), and in fact can merge entirely with the ship if need be. The Palmer Cells are something like the Exarchs in that they are of a modular design that grow and shrink at the Palmer's wish, provided sufficient material resources are available for them to eat and process. In this infinitely adaptable form, the Cells have become the premiere method of traveling the spaceways.
Taken together, Geodesica:Descent is both the exploration of a very alien subway system and a novel of exploring just how different humanity can come and still bind together against the common foe. Of course that doesn't mean they necessarily trust each other. No matter how much or how little they've changed, they're all still basically human, with all the baggage that term implies.
Of course the Archon is not human and its thought processes, while logical, are not something easily comprehended by the human mind; at least not whilst we cling to certain commonly accepted truisms, which on closer inspection are more what we wish the universe was like, but not, unfortunately, what nature usually provides. The Archon, not indoctrinated with these beliefs, can therefore act in the most inhuman and monstrous ways, and all in what it perceives as the best interests of its human charges.