Review: Severance

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Today is part 2 of my reviews in Apex Publication‘s Back Catalog Blog Tour this month! Enjoy my review of an older title of theirs, SEVERANCE, a remixed generation ship story from former Cracked.com writer, Chris Bucholz.

The Argos has spent over two centuries en route to Tau Prius, its destination, but the inhabitants have grown tired and bored of their journey. Rampant hedonism is common among the people, just to fill the time. Laura Stein isn’t a partaker of any of this revelry. She wants to just take care of her meat plant and be left alone. When one of her subordinates is found dead, she takes it upon herself to find out what happened. What she ends up finding is a conspiracy that could rend the generation ship’s inhabitants in two.

Bucking most classic tropes of generation ships, Bucholz decides to keep his human population awake the entire time, while in transit. No cryo sleep here! This leaves for interesting cultural developments, which we see in groups like the Makers and Breeders and yes they kinda do exactly what they are called. The ship’s layout is interesting and carries some classic tropish features, but what I particularly enjoyed was the attention to detail and civilization building the story manages to get across.

Yet, while those are a lot of fun world building details, the story is a bit monotonous. Stein is a maintenance worker, which is great, I love that we aren’t following a more exotic career, but there are pages where Stein and her colleague, Bruce, do…maintenance. I’m all for this sort of “realism,” but for a book that takes its action seriously, these scenes slow the entire plot to a literal stand-still.

With a parallel narrative that bounces between the past and present, Bucholz breaks this narrative up and keeps the pacing relatively fast. His attention to the people with good jobs versus those who don’t, provides a somewhat unspoken criticism of our own society, even if it seems he can’t decide exactly what statement he should be making. This is more than made up for the nudge and wink humor that is throughout, such as the “fauxmless” who treat homelessness as trendy, while being on a spaceship.

To their credit, Stein and her compatriot Bruce are well-crafted characters and you genuinely root for them throughout, because they really do represent the average person. I found myself pushed to finish the story, purely to see if Stein truly received her resolution and if the Argos could be saved at all.

If a wry, action-y science fiction is your thing, then look no further than SEVERANCE.

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