Author: James Alan Gardner
Published By: Avon Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago I told you about a box of hardcover science fiction novels I had purchased for $20.00. The books were purchased so that I could get a hold of two Star Wars novels to add to my collection. Little did I know that I would receive a treasure trove of science fiction novels for a dollar apiece. One such novel was Expendable by Canadian author James Alan Gardner. Gardner is well known for his science fiction and fantasy novels, for which he has been nominated for numerous awards. After reading Expendable, I can completely understand why.
Expendable is set in the year 2452. Life in the future is terrific. Under the able leadership of the League of Peoples, the universe has become a much nicer place to live. The League is a pan-species corporation with very strict rules about killing. There is no war and no homicide. Life is peaceful and the universe is open to exploration. The Technocracy has developed a way to deal with the dangerousness of exploration by declaring that all individuals in the Technocracy born with some kind of flaw or defect should be trained as Explorers. If you have a birth defect of some kind, but a healthy and functional brain, you are trained to be the first contact sent to a new planet. Of course this also means you are highly expendable. Who better to send on a mission that does not ensure safe return than someone who is not easy to look at?
Festima Ramos, born with a birthmark covering the entire right side of her face, presented a perfect candidate for Explorer training. Extremely good at her job, she has landed on countless planets and gathered up enough information and intelligence to elevate her to the top of her field. Ramos never balked at an assignment, no matter how dangerous - death or disfigurement was simply a hazard of the job. Then she met Admiral Chee and was informed that she would be escorting him to the planet Melaquin – a planet from which no Explorer has ever returned. The planet was still uninhabited, though not for lack of trying. Many a mission had been sent to Melaquin without success, earning the planet the nickname The Planet of No Return. Festima Ramos vows to survive her journey and to make hers the only team ever to return from the planet.
Unfortunately, someone has other plans for Festima and her team. She soon uncovers the truth behind the frequent missions to Melaquin. Before she can disseminate the information to the public at large, Festima must survive the planet itself. But can are the people she has long trusted with her life also her enemies?
This book had me entranced from start to finish. Written in the first person, Expendable brings us directly into the mind of its main character and allows us to form a bond with her. Our journeys are entwined; her fate ours. The reader ends up rooting for Festima’s survival, despite the cost. James Alan Gardner is descriptive enough to allow the reader to visualize everything that occurs in the novel without being so descriptive as to be boring.
Expendable is an excellent science fiction novel that has incredible film potential. I would love to eventually see someone adapt this book into a movie or miniseries. Check out Expendable today! You won’t be disappointed.