Myriad (Tour of the Merrimack #1)

Posted: December 5, 2009 in Books
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R.M. Meluch

Review © 2009 G.N. Jacobs

In Myriad, the first novel in R.M. Meluch’s Tour of the Merrimack series, I found a unique opportunity to expand my sense of the possible. I hadn’t thought that thoughtful concept driven science fiction and a fun military shoot ‘em up could exist in the same headspace at the same time. Not even Star Trek tried to do both in the same episode. Now, like Alexander the Great contemplating the Gordian Knot I have to change my perspective.

The U.S.S. Merrimack chases the dreaded Hive into a globular star cluster. The Hive is a barely sentient race of space insects that eat everything in its path because it can. Captain John Farragut is quite surprised to find three inhabited planets in the cluster where planets shouldn’t even form. And so the crew chooses to beam down to meet the natives. Sounds like a Star Trek episode doesn’t it?

Meluch expands the form to include wormholes, ancient artifacts that are older than the known universe and space battles with the aforementioned Hive. And there is a time travel element built into the climax. Causality as we know it is under threat as always with time travel.

And now the scorecard for the players on the political/military side of the series: the United States retained its status as the first among equals among the people of Earth. Naturally, the League of Earth Nations members are glad to run screaming to the United States when something or someone needs a beating. Depending on the outcome of the causality elements that enemy is either the Hive or the Neo-Romans of the planet Palatine.

Palatine was an American colony that broke away to complete independence from America. The Romans go for all of the scary technology most science fiction writers think should be banned until we become better people: cloning, cyborgs and nanotechnology. The Romans also have a habit of colonizing inhabited planets against the rules of the League of Earth Nations and they allow slavery. When combined with the United States’ outright jealousy at the brain drain caused by the Romans’ looting many intellectuals and secret societies for those that have kept the dream of Rome alive, we can see how the Americans and Romans would fight. Except when the Hive is near.

To deal with the Hive, Roman has agreed to temporarily halt hostilities and send to the Merrimack a patterner, an enhanced human with the ability to plug into computers and sift data for useful information. Augustus arrives as a man of mystery hated by much of the crew and takes his post as Intelligence Officer.

By rights this book shouldn’t have worked what with all the disparate elements at play: intrigue, romance, diplomacy and the action against the Hive. Meluch picked the right character archetypes fleshed out into people that allowed the story to seem whole and organic. We have female sluts described as the squadron welcome mat who fly into rages when their boyfriends are outed as being married. We have the usual mix of fighter pilot types with more guts than sense. We have Captain Farragut trying to get along with Augustus and a deepening relationship between the welcome mat and her CO, Colonel TR Steele, that breaks all the rules. Gee, the Hive almost doesn’t have to show up.

But, the Hive will always show up. The space bugs appear ready to eat everything organic in its way. They’re practically the product of the blender writers use to come up with ideas when stuck. Relentless eating machines with acid blood that can slip through energy screens will always get the readers’ attention even if we have seen the same movies.

I enjoyed the conceit of the book that humans had to be very circumspect in fighting the Hive. The bugs don’t think up new things, but they do learn to adapt to human trickery quite readily. Fighting the Hive usually involves shutting down excess electronics and pulling out swords to hack and slash under a rain of lye to counteract the acid. We really have seen the same movies.

I also enjoyed the wide range of personalities that come into play. Some people are apes looking for the next fight or hookup. Some joined the military for the educational benefits showing that it takes all kinds. Captain Farragut is depicted as the perfect warrior in that he fights as well as he inspires others to get through hopeless odds.

If there were something more that I’d want from this book it would be a deeper understanding of Augustus’ life as a patterner. But, I suppose some things should be left for the sequel.

Myriad is a great beach read for those of us that like science fiction with a little bit of everything for everybody.

http://www.amazon.com/Myriad-Tour-Merrimack-1/dp/0756403200/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260037618&sr=8-1

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