Travelling In Space by Steven Paul Leiva (book review).

July 7, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘Traveling In Space’ tells the tale of a group of aliens aboard a colony ship who are travelling the universe in search of other planets to colonise. They simply call themselves ‘Life’ from the planet ‘The Living World’ and the spaceship is called the ‘Lifeship’. The story is written from the perspective of the aliens who, despite being technically advanced, are under the impression that they are the only intelligent life in the universe. It therefore comes as a bit of a surprise when they stumble across planet Earth and its inhabitants (us) who they then call ‘otherlife’. Obviously, we aren’t ‘Life’ so must be something else.

TravellingInSpace

The main character of the story is initially called Life Seeder, although he does later suffer a name metamorphosis and is then called Leif. His occupation on the Lifeship is to find a suitable planet for settlement. Life Seeder is deemed to be a ‘fact finder’ in this alien civilisation, a role which we would term as scientist. His primary assignment is rudely interrupted when Earth is detected and he is re-purposed as the American’s like to say to study the otherlife inhabitants.

An interesting aspect of this alien civilisation – and there are many – is that people seem to be named after their role or a significant physical characteristic. For example, we have Our Leader, The Very Small And Delicate Woman, The BT Maker, The Large Man and not forgetting Life Seeder, just to name a few. This works fine on board the Lifeship but causes etiquette nightmares when contact is finally made with the otherlifers. It’s the humans who have the problems as the President of the United States of America can hardly refer to the colony ships leader as ‘Our Leader’ in front of the world’s press without losing face can he? The Very Ugly Man may not be that ugly to humans but who here on Earth wants to call him that?

The existence of otherlife has a huge impact on the aliens who prior to this were utterly convinced that they were the sole example of intelligent life in the universe. How they start to deal with this and make the initial contact is covered in the first half of the book which is very funny. While I was enjoying the read I was wondering where the story was going, as the main point seemed to be while there was much in common, the differences could lead to confusion, perceived insult or misunderstandings. All very funny but I was beginning to wonder if that was all there was going to be in this story. It would get a bit tedious by the end of the book but things take a change in direction on page 166 when The Lanky Gentleman reports contacts Life Seeder in some distress. He had been sent by Our Leader to study Otherlife Hate and, in a part of Africa, he found the hate on show to be so distressing it causes him to have a mental breakdown.

I have to admit that up to this point we had a good-natured, humorous romp. The massacre in Africa witnessed by The Lanky Gentleman was completely unexpected and out of context to what had gone before. Even I found it upsetting because it was so unexpected. The tone of the writing becomes more sombre from this point on with the humorous incidents becoming scarce. What we do get are passages contemplating probable human, sorry Otherlife, future development. These are very interesting but rather different in style to the first part of the book. More details of the alien’s civilisation emerging from this point and they too have some skeletons in the cupboard.

Back in the alien’s distant past, a visionary saw that they were in danger of overpopulation so genetically engineered a solution called the birth gamble. One in ten babies is in their terminology are born ‘ignorant’. That’s to say they are considerably less intellectually developed than the majority of the population and incapable of attaining such a level. To make matters worse for these ten percenters, they are despised by the ‘normal’ citizen, although the parental guardian does have a duty of care for them. This seems to involve giving them a good beating every now and then.

As a consequence of meeting Otherlife, the leaders of the crew of the Lifeship begin to question some of their basic beliefs and tenants. This is certainly true of Our Leader, who spots an opportunity to actually do some real leadership for a change. The consequences of this are unexpected and require the assistance of the Otherlife to normalise things again. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to both Life and Otherlife. I’m not going to divulge to much more here as I’m running the risk of revealing spoilers. What I will say is that it’s a good ending. A satisfying ending, in fact.

In ‘Traveling In Space’, we have a book of three parts. It starts with the humorous meeting of two civilisations followed by the contemplation of the rights and wrongs of each one. Particularly the Otherlife one, which has more wrongs at this stage of its development but Life is not without its blemishes. The final part of the book has a battle and for our hero Lief (previously known as Life Seeder), some significant changes in his mental outlook as a result of his experience with the Otherlife. It’s well worth a read.

Andy Whitaker

July 2015

(pub: Blüroof Press, Pasaden, 2011. 376 page ebook. Price: £ 2.17 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61914-723-2

check out website: www.bluroof.us

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi

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About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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