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Endless Blue by Wen Spencer
Cover Artist: Alan Pollack
Review by Lucy Schmeidler
Baen Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439132715
Date: 26 May 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Sam Lubell's Review / Show Official Info /

Endless Blue is a stand-alone novel, unrelated to any of Wen Spencer's previous books. My first impression of this book was military adventure SF. And I was right on the second two counts. But it's only military in that the main viewpoint character, Mikhail Ivanovich Volkov, is the captain of a Novaya Rus warship, with a crew that includes a contingent of "Reds," clones specially adapted to be human fighting machines. And in that all of human space is under attack from an alien race that seems intent on wiping out humankind.

Mikhael Volkov is sent to investigate the fate of a United Colonies carrier that disappeared during a wormhole jump ten years earlier, and nothing he discovers is what he--or the reader--expects.

This basic situation is both more typical of SF and easier to accept than the premises of Spencer's best known series: Pittsburgh conjoined to Elfland; or aliens who can pass for human, but who, when they lose blood or other body tissue lose some of their memories as well, and the lost material can reform as a lower animal.

Because it starts with a typical hard science fiction premise, Endless Blue feels like hard SF, though it isn't really about what happens to spaceships that get lost during a wormhole jump, as much as it's about how outcasts form societies and communicate across their original cultural lines and even across species. Although Spencer's aliens clearly resemble some human groups, with a bit of animal behavior thrown in, she makes them come alive as real possibilities.

Endless Blue explores the human tendency to see some people as less human than others; addresses the difficulty of communicating between beings without common unspoken assumptions; and ponders religion, philosophy, and the essence of morality. Dealing with sex and love, with some of humanity's deepest guilts and greatest fears, Spencer's approach is both profound and gentle.

A minor quibble: In at least three separate passages, "meditating" appears as "mediating" which is a perfectly good word, not to be questioned by a spell checker. I recommend that Spencer or her editors do more careful visual proofreading of future books. [Editor's Note: reviewer read a finished published copy of the book.]

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