In Hugo Award–winning author Steele’s (V-S Day, 2014, etc.) latest novel, a popular science-fiction writer aims to colonize space.
Nathan Arkwright, a venerated sci-fi icon somewhere between Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry, was the creator of the Galaxy Patrol, a series of space-adventure novels which were developed into a television show and films. Upon his death, his estranged granddaughter, Kate, discovers Arkwright’s entire estate will be going to fund something called the Arkwright Foundation. She soon learns the foundation’s aim is to launch genetic material—harvested from the descendants of Arkwright and his circle of sci-fi author and editor cronies, among others—into the far reaches of space. When the rocket reaches a habitable planet, the ship’s computer will combine the oocytes and sperm into embryos and gestate them in an artificial uterus, thus creating the first human settlement in space, complete with copies of Arkwright’s first book, Galaxy Patrol, of course. Steele’s book is laid out in a series of novella-length stories and shorter interludes; throughout, characters bearing the Arkwright name shuffle their ways through events of the recent past or the far future, culminating in a groan-worthy and wholly unoriginal ending. The connections from one story to the next are generally too tenuous to be very compelling, leaving the book as a whole feeling like a collection of half-baked ideas that Steele couldn’t be bothered to develop into a full-length series. Many of the book’s real-world details are either inaccurate (the predominant language of India is not “Indian,” for instance) or peddle obnoxious stereotypes: religious protesters are uniformly portrayed as violent fanatics with comically misspelled protest signs, while a white character’s first experience on a Caribbean island is getting scammed by an official Steele describes as “a tall black man with a purple-dyed 'fro” committing an act of “third-world graft.” Suffice it to say, no one will feel compelled to preserve this book for future generations.
A predictable tale that boldly goes where no one should have gone.