Reread: League of Peoples novels by James Alan Garder

I recent reread the League of Peoples novels by James Alan Gardner, beginning again with Expedables It’s been almost 10 years since I last read it–and it was completely compelling, despite remembering the broad strokes. The technique of short punchy sections makes it feel like a popcorn book. The setting is great, as is Festina. If you need someone to do the impossible, call in an Explorer.

Vigilant is an interesting continuation of the world. It’s again a single world, and our Faye is messed up, but not in the deliberate way of Festina. It’s an odd world, with the plague casting an appropriately horrific shadow over everything.

Hunted follows Edward, whose mere presence leads to death and disruption around him everywhere. His Dad is a total dick.

Ascending is told from Oar’s perspective. Her naivete sometimes grates, but the Pollisand’s interference is interesting. We start to learn about the interference of the “higher” races; he walks the line a bit with pointing out cultures corrupted by laziness; the ties to our time were a bit transparent. Still, it’s a fun journey with great payoff–but you’ll really want to have read at least Expendables first.

Radiant finishes off the series. The Unity is a great addition to the universe, with different but comprehensible reactions to Earth and the technologies they were gifted. The trio (Ramos, Youn Sue, and Tut) play off of each other very well. It turns a bit philosophical; Youn Sue’s struggle against the Balrog is fascinating throughout.

The end is a bit ambitious and ambiguous–the Balrog explains the structure and purpose of the explorers and their role. It’s implied that their meddling is having great effects that we should expect to continue… which makes it ironic that this was the series end.

Radiant will spoil key elements in Ascending, so I suggest reading it as the finale. I enjoy Commitment Hour and Trapped, but they’re in a separate sequence–they’re about the “left behinds” of old Earth, not the League and Explorer Corps.

Hunted by James Alan Gardner

Another solid book. I really like the hero– unusual for me, given his “slowness”. It is interesting to see the League enact their dictate, and Edward’s struggle is easy to empathize with. Nanotech makes another big appearance, as does genetic engineering.

The alien races continue to impress me; the Troyen castes and history mesh well with the personality of the characters we see. It’s one of the best books in this series. (I gobbled it down in a couple of “can’t put it down” nights.)

Trapped by James Alan Gardner

An excellent League of People’s book set on Earth. Our viewpoint character is as normal as you can get, surrounded by all kinds of interesting companions. Despite that, his strength of character buoys him throughout.

Characterization is strong. Page flipping is less compulsive than Expendable, but it’s a very enjoyable book, with great characters. The setting (and its explanations) are very interesting… nanites are awfully cool in this execution. It’s a very strong book, set off from the main line of Festina Ramos books. [She doesn’t show up at all.]

Vigilant by James Alan Gardner

An interesting book in the League of People’s universe, with Festina present but secondary. The main character is messed up in interesting and sympathetic ways. There are well done mystery elements and the society is fascinating. The main character, her family, and the Vigil are all well drawn and easy to inhabit.

This was a reread and a relatively quick one. It was very enjoyable; I’d forgotten some of the core mysteries (Maya, the peacocks), so it was new to me again. I’ll keep rereading it when I want something effortlessly satisfying.

Expendables by James Alan Gardner

The first League of People/Expendables novels, starring Festina Ramos. The book is written in very quick moving chunks. Festina is instantly interesting– captivating really– with her competence and neuroses. She is quite competent, but has specialties and quirks that really set her off as a character.

Inside the standard chapter format are 1/2 page to page and a half sections set off with witty captions, telegraphing what the next section is about, but often with a twist or a humorous pun. It works exceptionally well, breaking the action into tiny chunks… and quickly propelling you from bite to bite. It’s hard to put down at any point, particularly since the next bite is so small…

The universe is fascinating, with a benevolent supremely powerful league over everything. Humanity mostly bumbles along smoothly, but everyone looks over their shoulders, knowing that the league is always watching. The resulting adaptations to the universe (stunners and defensive technology, no wars in space) makes it a unique universe to explore in.

Speaking of explore, the Explorer’s Corp is interestingly founded and formed– misfits that make sense. The range of responses to their conditions is interesting, as are the cross section of explorers. This first novel was strong enough that I instantly snap up each new novel in the universe as soon as I spot it.