Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the sequel to Mickey7, which I read last year. This continues the story of Mickey Barnes, the "Expendable" of Niflheim Colony, and explores the consequences of the first. The colonists are facing a shortage of the antimatter that powers the colony, and "winter is coming" (with no help from George R.R. Martin). Hieronymus Marshall, the leader of the colony, demands that Mickey retrieve the antimatter bomb he left with the native intelligent species, the "creepers," to prevent Marshall from wiping them out in the first book. Now the colony needs the bomb, to restock its fuel and save everyone from starving and freezing.
Only thing is, Mickey never left the bomb with the "creepers" to begin with, and when he goes to retrieve it....it's gone, of course. This sets off this tale of survival and delves quite a bit into the ecology and other intelligent species of Niflheim (and reveals horrors the colonists never suspected), which is the thing that sets it apart from the first book. Otherwise, this would be an uninteresting retread, but with those elements it turns into a nail-biting thriller.
In the first book, Mickey was an "Expendable," who took all the risks, died all the deaths, and was uploaded and reinstalled in other cloned bodies. He's retired from that in this book, but Marshall is still threatening to throw him in the "corpse hole" (everything put there is recycled into "slurry" to help feed the colonists, which is a repulsive detail I didn't grasp from the first book). He also has a romantic relationship with Nasha Adjaya, who is rather badass in this book. There isn't as much discussion about identity and exploitation in this book, because Mickey has proven himself and has friends to support him. He's still not sure of himself or his place in the colony, but in the quest to reclaim the bomb he steps up and grows into a new role as leader.
The expanded worldbuilding of the planet is the most interesting part of this book, as we discover another "creeper" society in the south (which has a kind of horror tinge to it) and we spend some time with a creeper called Speaker, who becomes Mickey's friend. This book moves right along with a good pace, not overwhelming (there is enough time for character moments) but not dragging either. And at the end, a surprising character (not Mickey) makes the ultimate sacrifice to keep the colony alive.
There is supposed to be a movie made from the previous book, coming out this year perhaps? The narrative has a definite cinematic feel to it, and would likely make a good film. In the meantime, this book is definitely worth your time.
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