TheBookSmugglers's Reviews > Further: Beyond the Threshold

Further by Chris Roberson
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Jun 11, 12

bookshelves: science-fiction-awesomeness

Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

In the 22nd century, Captain Ramachandra Jason ("RJ") Stone and a small crew of five others embarked on a perilous but hopeful journey to the stars - spending the 10 light-year journey in cryogenic sleep en route to Alpha Centauri B. When RJ awakens, however, he is not surrounded by his fellow travelers on the surface of a new Earth-like planet four decades later, as planned. Instead, the Captain finds himself the sole survivor of Wayfarer One's unlucky fate, but approximately 12,000 years later. Early in its mission, the Wayfarer was hit by a micrometeoroid, which damaged the primitive ship's internal logic and neglected to wake up its crewmembers. Now, twelve millennia later, RJ Stone is a man out of time and thrust into a world that is nothing like the one he left behind.

In his long, long sleep, humanity has changed drastically. Earth - ravaged by environmental change, overcrowding, and still suffering from the aftershocks of a devastating asteroid impact - has changed in composition and size. The very definition of humanity has changed, to include all sentient creatures of Earth-life origin - no longer limited to biological homo sapiens bipeds. With advanced technology and the creation of a threshold connecting star systems formerly tens and hundreds of light years away by a network of portals (wormholes), humanity has grown peaceful, but somewhat complacent. RJ Stone's arrival changes all that - and a daring project to reach across the galaxy and find non-Earth origin sentience on the first-ever FTL starship, the Further, will finally be undertaken, with Stone at the helm.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Chris Roberson's prose work prior to Further (though I have thoroughly enjoyed iZombie and Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love), but I now see that there is a deficiency in my speculative fiction diet - because this first novel in a new SF series? Yeah - it's pretty awesome.

Further begins with a very familiar staple in the SF canon - the good ol' Rip Van Winkle caper, with a hero that has Slept!Too!Long! only to awaken to a world that has drastically changed. It is the manner of the changed world, the definition and evolution of humanity, and the fun ease with which Roberson writes, however, that makes Further such a compelling read. Introducing readers to a far-future iteration of humanity, where definitions have shifted to include any form of sentience - animal-based, mechanical, or otherwise - I found myself instantly captivated by this vision of future civilization. Through the lens of a somewhat relatable contemporary character (for, though Ramachandra Stone is from the twenty-second century, post-devestating asteroid impact, his views and interpretations are close enough to our own contemporary world), we witness how these perceptions of what defines intelligent life change over the millennia. And there's something very natural and acceptable about this evolved perspective of sentient life. Ramachandra's own views, his quickness to label fellow sentients as robots, chimps, or birds instead of human is offensive to all those in this distant future but perhaps more in-tune with our own current perceptions and prejudices. (I also appreciated the juxtaposition of Ramachandra's own Indian and American background leveraged against this future vision of discrimination.)

From a writing and science perspective, Further also does a solid job. While the story's pacing is a tad uneven and tends towards heavy exposition, especially in the early chapters,I do appreciate Roberson's attempt to integrate some scientific explanation for his future world - in which humans have taken to adopting animal features and robot, bird-watching space probes are considered human. And while some of the harder science elements are there (the use of the ship Further's working Alcubierre Bubble/Drive, for example), Roberson isn't as detailed as a Larry Niven or Stephen Baxter. Rather, Further focuses more on character and the personal journey of Ramachandra as he tries to adjust to his new time and role in the Human Entelechy. The novel's main conflict is perhaps a bit muddy and comes late in the book - featuring a few one-note villains - but I don't hold that against the novel. The exposition and world, the character of Ramachandra, and the introduction to this very strange future is the meat of the story, and I truly enjoyed it all.

In the vein of Roddenberry's classic USS Enterprise, the Further and her intrepid crew have many, many adventures ahead of them on their ongoing mission to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no member of the Human Entelechy has gone before.

And I, for one, am very excited to continue to ride.
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Alice Paqman You did justice with review and it would be nice if there where more!!!!


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