Review of Marrow by Robert Reed

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I acquired Marrow longer ago than I care to even think about, on account of the very cool cover as I’m a sucker for spacescapes. Would I enjoy it?

The ship is home to a thousand alien races and a near-immortal crew who have no knowledge of its origins or purpose. At its core lies a secret as ancient as the universe. It is about to be unleashed.

marrowThis is definitely in the realm of epic science fiction – with the emphasis on vastness. The ship Humankind has appropriated is absolutely immense. The population this ship supports is in the millions and the people running this ship are of the transhuman variety, in that they are all but immortal with lifespans stretching into the hundreds and thousands of years. To be able to sustain a storyline with plenty of twists and turns, and yet continue to be able to denote the sheer weirdness of the backdrop that is also key to said story takes serious writing skill. It’s one reason why science fiction is regarded with such snootiness in certain quarters – it is easy to write badly and difficult to write well.

So is Reed up to the task? Oh for sure. The only slightly dodgy pov was the initial prologue when the ship is talking and that doesn’t last long. Other than that, the mix of multiple and semi omniscient viewpoint works well. I was gripped by the story and cared sufficiently about the characters, despite none of them being all that likeable – they are too alien and inhuman. But that didn’t stop me becoming completely engrossed in the twists and turns over a huge span of time.

Reed manages to make the characters care about enough of the aspects of humanity that drive us, so that I could empathise with their motivations and yet they were indisputably ‘other’. It’s a far harder trick to pull off than Reed makes it look, and was certainly helped by the relatively small cast of characters that features in this generational ship adventure.

The worldbuilding was really well done. Reed has an amazing imagination and has let it off the leash when it comes to his lethal world, Marrow. But while it certainly features and shapes the story, Reed hasn’t allowed it to become centre stage. So while there are passages of detailed description, they tend to be added when necessary to the narrative progression, so we don’t have pages and pages of explanation that hamper the pace and diffuse the tension.

All in all, this is a really intriguing, entertaining read and while I note that it isn’t available on Kindle, if you do happen to encounter a copy and you are a hard science fiction fan, then scoop it up. You’re in for a treat.
9/10

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