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The Review Man

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The Legend of T93 - Michael R. Herrman When I was younger, I used to play a computer game called Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. It was one of those turn-based strategy games where you'd start with a settler and build towns, units, city improvements, and special projects. You could manage your faction's political policy, economy, research and development and foreign policy (at least to a certain extent). There were even indiginous life forms—called mind worms—that you could fight and even capture so you could use them in your armies. It was sort of like Civilization but in another star system.

But the best part about Alpha Centauri was the different political factions. You could choose to play as Brother Lal's Peacekeepers, a group of peacekeepers who excelled at bureaucracy but had a puny military force. (Shades of the United Nations, no doubt.) There were the Spartans, who boasted strong military powers but had trouble forging friendships, much less alliances. Provost Zakharov's was comprised of research scientists who could build advanced technology but who seemed to have trouble connecting to the world around them. Sister Miriam led a group of religious zealots who were strong on conviction but weak on science. Morgan Industries were the rich bankers and economists. The Hive was a sort of proto-Communist colony. And finally, my favourite: Gaia was the ecological hippie on the planet. Her faction could control the mind worms but often lacked a strong economy or political structure.

When I began reading The Legend of T93, I was immediately reminded of Alpha Centauri. The Granitites are the spitting image of Sister Miriam's religious fanatics, while Haven reminded me of a twisted version of the Hive. All this is to say that Herrman isn't creating new ideas in his dystopia; he's playing with ideas that have been around for a while.

The Legend of T93 comes with a few problems. The love interest seems shoehorned into the story and the Granitites don't feel fully developed. But I think Herrman does well with the Summerhill faction, in particular their energy source and the fact that they kill 'unneeded' infants. (The latter development changes Summerhill from a pointlessly black-and-white utopia into a real-world place. After all, things are not often as clear-cut as they seem. Can you think of any places on Earth where everyone is perfect?) The controlling computers were also interesting, although I would have liked to see them explored in greater detail. The computer endgame, however, was well-written in that it did not spoon-feed the conclusion to the reader.

I'm planning to expand this review with more thoughts and comments soon. They'll go here.

I don't usually read this sort of fiction, so this was an interesting depature for me. I was pleasantly surprised (although the first-person narration is something I could do without), and it'd be interesting to see whether Herrman has a sequel planned, perhaps something more philosophical and contemplative in nature (cf. the differences between Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2). I'd give The Legend of T93 3.5 stars out of 5, except Goodreads doesn't allow half-stars. Since I don't round down (if I did, I'd be giving quite a few books 0 stars!), 4 stars it is.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of The Legend of T93 to read by the author. I was not paid to write this review, and all of the above opinions are my own.