Author: R T Coleman
Publisher: Aurelia Leo
- ISBN: 9781954541160
- Published: September 2022
- Pages: 258
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 19/04/2023
- Language: English
Science Fiction is one of the best genres because you can explore subjects via a prism of the future. Writing a book about how we treat others does not have to be told via a historic story, or the present, you can look far to the future and draw parallels between that world and ours. What would happen if a disease spread across the planet that infected large numbers of the population, those that survived became docile and other. Would we treat these infected with respect or, as R T Coleman suggests in Vagabonder, with fear and exploitation?
Caen has returned home after his mother’s death only to be sent away on an impossible task. He is to make his way to the Moon and contact the Vagabonders, a legendary group of original Moon settlers. For most humans making the journey across the planet and onto the Vine, the space elevator used to get closer to the Moon, would be hard, but Caen is no human. He is a child of the Dua, a race kept apart from the humans, treated as slaves and lesser. Can Caen reach the Moon and help his people?
The future is often bleak in science fiction and Coleman does not paint somewhere that most of us would want to live. Even for the humans, life is not great. The constant fear of being struck ill and dying or becoming a Dua is one thing, but the oppressive regime is another. The humans in Vagabonder are not the villains, but OnyxCorp, a shadowy company that runs most of the capitalist world. Their success is on the back of enslaving the Duas. For a generation or two the Duas have proven to be placid and malleable, but with Caen’s generation, things are about to change.
To show that not all humans are bad, the book is split into three narratives, Caen, Dr Ligeia Obumbwe, and Madge Erlang. Caen is a Dua, and his motives are unknown, he acts as the catalyst for events as he pushes through the various towns and cities on his mission. Ligeia acts as the heart of the story, someone that the reader can see themselves in. She is a scientist ally of the Dua, naive at first, but soon starts to learn about their plight. Lastly is Erlang, the least sympathetic character, but also the most interesting. A Director at OynxCorp, she is part of the machinery of slavery, but can she be persuaded to change?
Vagabonder is a hard hitting look at how people are treated in society, the Dua are a borderline slave community, at best seen as lesser members of society. Some of the scenes are hard to take, including one which sees Dua stowaways being dealt with by the authorities. The individual moments in the book have more impact that the narrative that feels a little linear and eager to move on. Caen goes from one set piece to another like a Dua Littlest Hobo. It is not until the end of the book that events happen in one place for longer. This gives the ideas and characters time to develop, and we start to see the complexities of Erlang come to the fore.
With its well realised world building, Vagabonder is a good slice of cyberpunk fiction. It has the cynicism and darkness you would expect from a Bladerunner or classic noir from the 50s. There are characters and a situation that is starting to nicely come to the boil by the end of the story and I expect there is an explosive second act that could easily follow. One for cyberpunk and thriller fans to enjoy.
Written on 19th April 2023 by Sam Tyler .