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Colony Fleet
Susan R. Matthews
HarperCollins Eos Books, 304 pages

Colony Fleet
Susan R. Matthews
Susan Matthews grew up across the US and in Europe and India. While in the US Army, she served as the operations and security officer of a combat support hospital. She works as an auditor for The Boeing Company and recently graduated from Seattle University with an MBA in accounting. She lives in Seattle.

Susan R. Matthews Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Avalanche Soldier
SF Site Review: Hour of Judgment
SF Site Review: Prisoner of Conscience
SF Site Review: Prisoner of Conscience and An Exchange of Hostages

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

She amazed and chilled readers with the harrowing life of a master torturer in the Koscuisko series and took us into the midst of a religious conflict about to turn to war in Avalanche Soldier. Now, Matthews may just have topped herself with the far-reaching space adventure of Colony Fleet. It's a step in a new, exciting direction.

Hillbrane Harkover, known to Jneers and Oways as "Aitch Harkover," known to Mechs as "Chelbie," is a woman coming of age in a tense situation. Every character in the book, actually, is living life on the edge. Life in the Colony Fleet, four hundred years out from Earth and four hundred years away from its final destination, is a reality of ships, carefully managed resources, and dedication to a mission. Generations have been born and died on the journey to five livable worlds, all without ever knowing what it is to stand under an endless sky.

It is a comfortable existence for the Oways and a pampered one for the privileged Jneers who primarily dwell on the Noun ships with their artificial habitats and pleasures. For the Mechs who are maintaining the fleet it is a life of stark interiors, make-do, and constant vigilance. Because all are not equal in the fleet; over the centuries of their journey, a rigid caste system has formed -- as severe and blatantly unfair as all class distinctions. And this one is about to explode into a major rift in the Fleet.

As the novel follows Harkover in her own journey of discovery, readers follow closely on a tour of life in the Fleet through a variety of filters. With each passing day, we seem more clearly as the layers of preconception fall away from her eyes. Her maturation is an awakening for all of us, and she is determined to force a similar awakening on all members of the vast Fleet. Her persistence and vulnerability make her a heroine worthy of the name.

Harkover is not the only strong female in enormous scope of Colony Fleet. Through the character of Podile, the Oway, comes a completely different view of the situation. Her classification condemns her to life always in the middle, siding with Jneers and loathing the supposedly "unclean" Mechs. As fascinating as Harkover's character is, it is Podile who is the voice of reason and the touchstone of reality. This woman between the extremes is a fascinating, endearing character. She may be doomed by birth never to join the elite ranks of the Jneers, but her analysis is sharper and more practical than any of the privileged ones she waits on.

Alas, I cannot give away the story, but I will tell you that the story of what happens to the first group to settle on Waystation One is as tense and relentless as any moment in science fiction. It moves from fear to panic to numb horror in a flawless display of building suspense that should stand as an example to readers and writers of every category of fiction.

Susan R. Matthews is one of the most talented, imaginative voices in the genre. Colony Fleet is her finest work yet. Keep an eye out for her name in the 2001 Hugos and Nebulas. If there is any justice in the world, it will be there on the final ballot.

Copyright © 2000 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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