I finished my Wen Spencer binge with a sci-fi novel of hers that I had laying around in paperback format.
Endless Blue is science fiction; it has space ships, clones, genetically altered super soldiers, aliens, shuttles and rail guns. It’s not an amazing literary feat, following the more typical Spencer of very enjoyable prose and plot that moves along propelled by interesting protagonists.
The setting is thick with tropes, and few if any novel ideas are introduced. And again, Spencer manages to bring an interesting fresh angle at the material. The familiar criticisms are still there — as interesting as the character concepts for the protagonists are, they don’t ever quite develop the depth I’d like. The plot is self-contained — the book begins and ends within its covers — but towards the end it seems like the author woke up from all the fun she was having writing and had to quickly start tying up loose ends. It also engages in Marty Stu/Mary Sue fantasy with its protagonists.
For all its hard sci-fi setting, Endless Blue is about the relationships between the characters and how they define themselves and each other, their actions when they’ve been yanked out of their comfort zone, and musings on equality and humanity as a whole. While cinematic, some touches of the world seem unnecessary for the plot. There are also occasional plot clues revealed only shortly before they’re used, which annoys me a bit, having grown up with the proper British mystery novel tradition.
Deux ex machina is the novel’s strength and Achilles’ heel. The unlikeliness of some of the events and setting are explained by it. On the other hand, the divine hand is elevated to a central element of the setting and left mysterious, giving the work and its events a lot more depth. Just what was preordained, what was free will? What was human nature, and what was human nature being made into the image of something else?
The setting could easily support a multitude of further novels with different protagonists, and as a credit for her world building I still find myself trying to imagine the visuals and wondering about just how certain things would work and develop.
Much like a lot of Spencer’s books, I feel that it shows great promise, but only wish it had been worked and finished with a lot more patience and care. Nonetheless, it was a book that was readable, made me think of deep, existential issues, and successfully convinced me that sleep could wait, and for that I’ll award it four out of five stars.