Let’s do this one differently, and write as I am reading the book! It might help in this case, since there is more to parse than some of the things I have been reading lately. So, business first, this is another Curiosity Quills book, and as the cover shows, was co-authored by Kris Carey and Rod Kierkegaard, Jr. The two or three regular readers will recognize that second author as one I have written about previously, and not in a good light. But he keeps having such damn cool sounding plots, and I can’t help it, I want to like them because they sound so amazing.
As does this. To borrow from the CQ site’s blurb, “In an arm of the galaxy barely touched by human exploration, Adam Wetherall has raised his Family according to the tenets of a barely remembered Bible in a world called Eden. But Eden has a secret: a unique ecosystem system of a single intelligent mold spore constantly mutating in the radiation of a yellow-green sun. And when old Adam dies at last and his surviving wives and children flee from the solitary paradise he made into a prison, they bear the mark of Eden with them.” What’s not to love?
So, it begins on Eden, with Eve burying Adam, and her son Caine returning from, and this is not a spoiler, doing away with his half-brother Abel. No, really. We are, in short order, presented with a universe where humanity has forgotten much – the location of Earth (remembered as Old Yurth), for example. Religion factors in quickly, as Eve’s backstory, set on Nukannan, a religious world with different sects based on what day they believed God (Yod) created the universe. The lack of any surviving (and it is suggested that none exist anywhere) copies of the Bible (Babel or Babbel). As a aside, there are, later in the book, suggestions that Adam did indeed have a Bible, but given the other characteristics of the character, he could just be lying. The story moves from the situation on Eden to a point some five years down the road, with Caine and Lilith working as mercenaries / hired killers in order to support the rest of the family. This is where the book splits into two diverging storylines, one following Caine as he searches for a missing Xterran (a species [kinda] of genetically modified human [yuman] – see Lois McMaster Bujold’s ‘Cetaganda‘ for a good foundation on this kind of thing) and he soon finds himself involved in a series of gun battles, space battles, a slave revolt/rescue, and a riff on ‘The Most Dangerous Game‘ / Solaris VII. With a side of Forbidden Planet. Which, yes, the titular Mecha (a planet), which appears about halfway through, and the title is one of those that works on two levels – flight as in a method of transport, and flight as is fleeing. I do love that kind of thing. His is by far the most action-focused part of the book, with running gun fights, and all the action-movie parts that go with it.
Lilith, on the other hand, does more to move the plot forward. Her scenes establish the changing family dynamic, and the main plot. It also establishes her as someone not to be trifled with, for despite Caine’s swaths of carnage, Lilith is indeed the more dangerous, and deadly one. While I found myself initially more drawn to the action movie that is Caine, I ended more interested in the plot development that is Lilith. Not that Caine doesn’t move the plot forward, just not in the same way. Yet.
So, we are pretty much in the far distant future here. For comparison, Dune has Catholics and Earth, and is set some 21,000 years in the future. Not that the two books are connected, it is more a mental experiment on how authors see human racial memory and cultural continuity. This feels, to me, closer in fictional timeline to the impossibly far future of William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. Not that far, but further along the timeline than most fiction tends to go. Some of the changes are linguistically, and I like a book written in dialect. There is also an AI…society isn’t right somehow…network? Common cultural dynamic? Well, something, that leads to them choosing their own names, and those names not always making the least bit of sense. It falls, for me, into the ‘wacky alien name’ zone, where I see it, don’t get it, and let it go, glossing over it enough to know who is who, but not focusing on the names (I Love Lucifer, But-A-Fly, Blue Roses, and so on). The presence of AI smart suits (combo of spacesuits, stillsuits, armor, etc.) means that every non-biological character has a fairly odd name. I hope to see something on how that developed at some point.
What is important is that it is all consistent – the AI’s are characters too, and have hopes and fears, and their own reactions to the various humans they are forced to be subservient to. I caught a feeling of things being glossed over from time to time, but that was not the overwhelming sensation, so it could be what was happening, or could be me glazing over a bit. This is a dense book. It throws ideas and concepts at you without much time to explain. But the concepts are explained, and when they aren’t, the context does the job. Unlike a certain Hugo winner that simply disposed of any kind of explanation for it’s far future, Flight to Mecha does let you in on the world, and that makes it more approachable. I will say that, without a spoiler, Mecha (the planet) is poised to become more like Mecca, which makes the name into a triple entendre – kudos there.
I have had some harsh words to say about Mr. Kierkegaard, Jr’s books. I once went so far as to compare him to David Drake, as an author in need of a coauthor to fill in the holes. I have also said that he has some damn cool ideas, even if I am not always into the execution. This book somewhat solidified that opinion for me. The addition of Kris Carey seems to have fixed the things I found to be a problem in his other, solo, works. I have seen this before – and it may just be that the coauthor gets to say ‘no, that isn’t going to work’ earlier than an alpha reader might. Working with another also forces collaboration, and like metals, the alloy is stronger than the elemental form. Flight to Mecha is far better than Mr. Kierkegaard, Jr’s others, even while ranking 8 of 10 Neil Stephensons on the confus-o-meter. This is a good read – it isn’t easy, but it is good. I want to see where things go – there is a ton to examine, from the AI culture to the yuman and xterran cultures. All of these could merit a novel in themselves. I look forward to seeing where this goes.