Sunday, January 1, 2012

Greetings. I am a sentient citizen of the League of Peoples and I beg your hospitality

My husband wooed me with books. I love books and like to read them over and over, so I have a hard time getting rid of a book after I read it unless I hate it, so libraries aren’t for me (too many overdue fees!). He worked in a bookstore and so he brought me books—paperbacks, hardcovers, all genres, best-sellers, non-sellers. I discovered new favorite authors and actually threw out some books because I hated them so much.

James Alan Gardner is one “new favorite author” discovered early in the wooing. is a Canadian science fiction author. He has so far written seven novels in his "League of Peoples" universe. Expendable is the first.

Festina Ramos is a member of the Explorer Corps, experts in First Contact and ECMs (expendable Crew Members). Each Explorer is ‘handicapped.’ Though all Explorers are exceptionally bright and fit, they are chosen to be Explorers because they are less than physically perfect. They may have a disease or a birth defect or something that makes them repellent to beautiful people. If such an imperfect person dies, others will not be as devastated as they would be if a beautiful person dies.

Festina and her partner are sent to Melaquin, a planet from which no Explorer has ever returned. In fact, all contact is within minutes of each landing. They must discover the secret of the planet.

Sounds like a pretty straight-forward Sci-fi novel, right? Only Mr. Gardner has crafted a unique and exciting universe where murder is outlawed: only “dangerous non-sentients” kill other sentients. Dangerous non-sentients are not allowed to leave their solar systems under penalty of death by the omniscient League of Peoples. So in a universe with no murder, how do ‘bad guys’ get rid of people they don’t want? And can they get away with it?

Mr. Gardner weaves his universe’s backstory and structure into the primary narration, so that you learn about history and the story at the same time without having to deal with long-winded explanations. Our heroine, Festina, is a fully-realized human being, dealing with self-doubt, fear, hope, and determination—all with a sense of humor and humanity.

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