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Review: Generation Ship - Michael Mammay

Genre: Science Fiction

Published: Harper Voyager, October 2023

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Space-sci-fi tends to be hit or miss for me, but Generation Ship is the exact kind of sci-fi that I love. Thought provoking, well thought through, and focusing more so on the people and societal aspects of space-exploration than fancy-aliens and space-guns, this book had me hooked from beginning to end over the course of its 600+ page narrative.

For over 250 years The Colony Voyager has traversed space on its way to the distant planet of Promissa, in an attempt to establish the first human colony on a planet outside our solar system. Aboard, alongside humanities brightest engineers and scientist, is a micro-society of roughly 18000 inhabitants. Generations have passed since their departure from Earth, and the ships strictly regulated way-of-life as dictated by their forebearers who left terra-firma, is all the passengers have ever known. All that is about to change when their ultimate goal becomes close enough to touch. With only months until their arrival on Promissa, tensions on the ship begin to rise. Not just about what they will find on this new frontier, but more so on the implications it will have on their way of life and the structure they’ve lived by for generations now.

What I loved:

What makes this novel unique amongst its fellow alien-planet-novels, is that 75% of its narrative length takes place aboard the ship before  touch-down, focusing on the impact of the anticipation of the upcoming changes on society aboard. Had you told me that in advance, I might’ve been hesitant about that idea, but it was that first 75% of the novel that I absolutely loved. Exploring the ship, their systems and laws, and the way of life they’ve had to adopt to survive in these cramped circumstances, and getting to know the various characters within it, exceeded all my expectations. Then, seeing al these paradigms shift in the light of a new situation and over generations (considering neither the “original makers” of these rules, nor the situation that birthed them are present anymore) was só well done!

The different POV’s really helped create a well-rounded view of the situation and its many sides. Each character felt memorable and unique, both in their role on the ship as in their stance on the events at hand. The atmosphere was tense, stakes were high and I was fully invested in the faiths of those aboard. Throughout the first 450 pages or so, this book was bound for a place among my favourites, and a strong 5-star read. Although enjoyment-wise, I’d still happily have given it that, the ending made some choices that dropped that rating back to a 4.

What I didn’t love:

The ending was a bit too ambitious for its own good, and tried to introduce one too many new concept on top of everything it had already established. The arrival at the planet simply came too late in the story to allow enough development-time for such a big new piece of information. If you're interested in more details, you can find a spoiler-filled section in my Goodreads review, but for the purposes of this post, I'll keep it spoiler-free.

Had Mammay wanted to explore these extra elements properly, it would’ve almost required a 600-page sequel. I would’ve happily read that sequel, mind you, but didn’t like it as an afterthought in an already great society/politically-based sci-fi.

You can find this book here on Goodreads

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