ith the CORVID-19 virus raging, I’ve been moving though my old stacks, pulling books out that look interesting for a read four decades after purchase. And while the last one I noted was The Somme on old Earth, this one looks at the end of the “Holy Human Empire” in future-space.
Colonel Saloman Karff is in deep shit. The rebels are pushing into the capital and he’s an officer in what is technically the Gestapo (i.e. the internal intelligence service). But he’s got a heart under that grim exterior – we open with him burning the files of all his agents to the rebels won’t hang the lot, before heading to the last transport and ordering an officer’s furniture removed so that refugees can escape. This gets him into water hot enough that when the running Imperial Fleet finds the system of Aqua Pura. This was a world that had been set on the path of slow terraforming, but other humans escaping government oversight from somewhere have already settled on it. They have space habitats to grow food and a space elevator. The thing is, though, that this hatred of government was part of their baggage. Now, ruling families ship food down the well to the excess population in the city at the base of the elevator, leaving them in a grim subsistence level of existence while they live the orbital high life above.
And the Imperials need to send someone down there on a possible suicide mission. To the Imperials, Karff is not a “team player”. So he’s the perfect fit.
Overall, I rather liked this book. Funny that all these years later I tripped over an old line I’ve always loved: “Libertarians are Anarchists on a gold standard”. The characters were interesting (but, in a short 188-page book, a bit undeveloped) but overall it was a good read. Like all good science fiction, it looks at a point beyond the story, that being the role of government in a society. Food for thought.
I got a fun couple of dental-surgery-recovery days out of it. What more can you ask?