This review is based on an eARC (Advance Reading Copy) provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Generation Ship will be released on October 17, 2023.
When I saw Michael Mammay’s Generation Ship pop up on NetGalley, I was intrigued by the blurb, but I’d never heard of the author and wasn’t sure I had time to throw another lengthy novel onto the TBR. Then some of the early ARCs came out with absolutely glowing reviews, and I decided maybe I could make time after all.
Generation Ship takes place on a generation ship (go figure) nearing the end of its centuries-long voyage. But the promise of a terrestrial home, combined with some of the uncertainty in the data returned from the latest probes, have turned simmering political disagreements into a full-on powder keg. And the five point-of-view characters—a scientist, a coder, a politician, a cop, and a farmer—will be at the center of the burgeoning conflict.
Despite throwing the reader into the deep end with five unique perspective characters in the first five chapters, Generation Ship starts remarkably quickly, with two immediately compelling events that pull all five into the thick of the conflict that will drive the entire book. What follows is hundreds of pages of people working at cross-purposes, due to conflicts in their personal ambition, their moral beliefs, or their interpretations of incomplete scientific data. One of the five leans a bit cynical and self-serving from the start—and another joins him as the book progresses—but by and large, it’s easy to understand what drives each character and how it throws them into conflict.
And the conflicts themselves are interesting. There are political disputes surrounding euthanasia and career mobility, subversive violence, police brutality, and the shadow of a potential first contact scenario looming over the whole thing. This is absolutely a political novel, but it’s not one that lacks for excitement. I was a little disappointed at just how often the characters found themselves taking actions into their own hands due to an extreme distrust of those around them—especially with one being so talented that taking action into their own hands felt at times like a cheat code—but it wasn’t hard to see how the distrust arose, and the resulting conflagrations were excellent reading.
Generation Ship is very much a standalone, addressing one extended series of conflicts, and so the promised arrival at the destination is more the culmination of all the battles along the way than it is the start of a brand new one. I felt the first contact plot had layers enough to completely redefine what came before, but the book chose to focus more on the internal conflicts than the external ones, and the planetary arrival certainly made for a gripping climax. I might’ve liked to see a little bit more extended denouement—and there was a frustrating character decision or two—but the last quarter of the book was nearly impossible to put down, and it’s hard to complain too much about such a thrilling finish.
I found the worldbuilding fairly easy to follow, with careful consideration of many of the practical details of life in space without devolving into pages of technobabble. I did find the frequent futuristic updates to common idioms to be a bit immersion-breaking—it seems more plausible to me that language would evolve entirely new idioms while retaining archaic terms in old ones than going all-in on phrases like “I’m an open-source program” or “I thought we were on the same screen”—but this is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.
Overall, Generation Ship is an engaging political sci-fi with points-of-view spanning five different corners of the central conflict. For those who called Battlestar Galactica “The West Wing in space” and saw it as a compliment, this one is very much worth the read.
Recommended if you like: multi-POV political sci-fi.
Can I use it for Bingo? It’s hard mode for Mundane Jobs, and it is also Published in 2023.
Overall rating: 15 of Tar Vol’s 20. Four stars on Goodreads.