Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: 2nd Gen, by Andrea and William Vaughan

A mediocre YA space novel about a generation ship.

2nd Gen

Hickory Nut Publishing, 2018, 378 pages

Humanity's last hope...

With Earth rapidly becoming inhospitable to human life, GS Archean carries a one-way crew of courageous passengers to Uelara, an Earth-like planet in the Cieri star system. Uelara is ideal, except for one minor detail - its distance from Earth. Traveling at sub-light speed, the generation ship won’t reach Uelara within the original crew’s lifetime.

Thirty years into the journey, a new generation born on the Archean trains to fulfill the first generation’s mission. Eager to reach Uelara, the second-gen crew prepares, as planned, to assume their parents’ responsibilities - that is, until...someone goes missing and a devastating secret is discovered, putting the future of the human race in jeopardy. Will the crew rally and carry out the mission - or is humanity doomed?

It’s all up to the 2nd Gen.

"The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard." (Gaylord Nelson)

I like YA novels that remind me of Heinlein's classic juveniles. But 2nd Gen, while not a terrible book, was thoroughly mediocre. I believe it was originally indie-published (i.e., self-published), and it shows.

The cut is not really serious — I don't get jealous when I see someone I consider less talented than myself who's been published. In all honesty, with as much self-awareness as I can muster, I think I am a decent writer, I've only made one lackluster attempt (so far) at getting professionally published, and if I really, really wanted to be published, I'd be polishing up that first manuscript and working on another, instead of writing fan fiction. Our actions reveal our preferences.

Still, the novel I wrote and submitted to a few publishers was a YA space opera with somewhat similar themes, and I think it was better than this.

The protagonists of 2nd Gen are the "2nd Gen" of kids learning to crew the Archean, a generation ship carrying the first interstellar colonists to another planet. Their parents, the 1st Gen, have been teaching them the ropes and preparing them to settle on Uelara in about 20 years.

The novel opens with a bunch of late teens/early 20s playing an elaborate game of hide 'n go seek. Even though they justify this to themselves, acknowledging that they're too old for such games, and saying it's just a tradition they are trying to hold onto before they have to transition to adulthood for good, it set the tone for the rest of the book. These young adults act like children, and while it seemed the authors were trying to emulate Heinlein, in which juveniles thrust into unexpected precarious situations have to grow up and take charge, the characterization was all so flat that from the "leader" who tries to man up to the punks who represented the "rebels," it still all felt very much like high school cliques, not a crew of survivors representing humanity's last, best hope.

There is a (obvious, easy to guess) revelation at about the halfway point, in which the 2nd Gen learns that the 1st Gen has been lying to them about their mission. Then a conveniently-timed tragedy leaves the 2nd Gen on their own to deal with it. The reactions (including the cause of the tragedy) are more juvenile whining, some of it unforgivable. When some of the kids are determined to continue the mission, while others decide to play Lost Boys and actively screw with the ones trying to do their jobs, someone should have taken a more authoritarian stance, but instead, they just waffle about how "these are our friends, they are just reacting to trauma differently!" Yeah, your "friends" are acting like sociopaths, threatening to doom everyone aboard the ship, and all the people back on Earth whose only hope is a successful extrasolar colony. Time to start spacing people. (I'd probably be a terrible starship captain.)

Besides the juvenile tone, there are a lot of amateur writing mistakes. The dialog is replete with saidisms. Whenever there is a need for drama, someone does something stupid. I can't fault the book too hard for young people acting like young people, but at times, it was hard to remember that these are twenty-somethings and not tweens. The social structure of the ship did not make much sense — everyone has their job and their life partner selected for them, like in some authoritarian dystopia, but otherwise they mostly act like 21st century Westerners.

The book ends with a clear opening for a sequel, but I'm not really interested in reading it.

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