Medusa Uploaded

Part One of the Medusa Cycle
By Emily Devenport
Tor Books, ISBN: 978-1250169341
Paperback, 320 pages. ©2018

On the generation ship Olympia, Oichi Angelis lives as a worm. Her job, as with all worms, is to serve those in the executive class without complaint or indeed without a word. The executives believe she is mostly blind and deaf, and that she can speak only in limited terms, since they themselves handicapped her in this way. What the executives do not know is that Oichi’s father implanted in her brain at an early age a database of music and art and innumerable other connections which allowed Oichi to see and hear much further than was believed.

So when she begins to hear a voice in her head which identifies itself as Medusa, at first she believes it is a computer or an operating system in the ship. She doesn’t learn different until an offended executive blows her out an airlock and the voice in her head comes to her rescue. From that moment on Medusa and Oichi are bonded, partners in what Oichi first sees as revenge. But Oichi is not the only one on the ship who isn’t happy with the status quo, and Medusa has many sisters. What started as revenge becomes a revolution and a race against time to stop warring clans who care nothing for the worms.

This is a fast-paced science-fiction thriller that combines political suspense with hard sci-fi. It will keep you guessing all the way through the book. Author Emily Devenport does a fine job with world building, despite the fact that it was difficult for me to picture living inside a ship for my entire life. Scenes of Olympia’s external view came alive in my mind, as did good scenes of dimly lit, narrow hallways, darkened crawlspaces, opulent executive quarters, and – my favorite –the habitat sector, where gardeners raise food and flowers and medicines and poisons. I could feel the humidity in every breath when Oichi stepped into the gardens for the first time.

Character development, too, was well done. Oichi captivated me from the very first page with her believability. Her courage and brazen determination made me admire her. Some of her choices made me want to smack her. Her combination of chilling calculation and warm compassion lent her a unique quality which was only enhanced by her quirky dialogue. I was also intrigued by the human qualities in Medusa and her sisters. Reading of the bond between them and their partners made me want a Medusa of my own. I could even understand the executives, not all of whom were bad guys, given the situation of their existence aboard the ship in space for more than a hundred years with no idea where they were going.

All in all, I loved this book and I’m very glad to know that it is the beginning of a series. There were some few small things that detracted from it for me, especially the minis. I could understand the need for them and, given that they were created by children, I could even understand why they were the way they were. Still, overall, I felt their demeanor diluted the weight of the rest of the story. Also, while I loved Oichi’s snide commentary, some of the phrases and terms she used seemed more aimed at contemporary readers rather than her own timeline. They felt inauthentic to the story’s world. That said, it is conceivable that they could be tied in to the database of the implants, which would give rise to such inconsistences. Still, I suspect they would be used in different ways than we use them now. I expect further books in this series will flesh out those ideas, and provide more scaffolding for/to their use.

I highly recommend this book, which quickly became difficult to put down. I found myself carrying my Kindle every place where I could take advantage of five minutes here or 10 minutes there to read another page. I look forward to the next book in the series.