The Spin is a vast artificial galaxy of suns and planets, constructed so long ago by an unknown, long gone alien species. More recently, relatively, the Spin has witnessed many millennia of human history, during which time humans on certain planets have evolved into something a little different, whereas others continue on a path of war, industry, business and exploitation that began longer ago than anyone knows on a forgotten planet called Earth. Much of life occupies the Inside, in what has become known as the Hive. This is a vast expanse of enslaved colonies. Millions live in miserable servitude. Few escape, but Seldyan does, along with her small group of friends. They steal one of the very last legacy spaceships with an AI that has been dormant for 8000 years. Until now.
The Spin now contains massive habitations in space, constructed from thousands and thousands of ships tethered together, most notably Web City – a construction filled with vice, chaos and what could be described as making the best of things. But not far from Web City, something strange has appeared in the sky – a giant green star. It appeared instantly and near it is another curious object – an eyebrow-shaped path of destruction.
Something is up with the Spin. It has grown lazy and slipped into forgetfulness. Trade and travel are fading. But it appears that it might be about to be woken up…
Iron Gods follows Creation Machine but, apart from the fact that they both take place within the Spin, there is little to connect. They take place many years apart. And so you can most definitely read one without the other, although I think that Creation Machine would make a good place to start.
This is a complicated story, moving from Inside to Outside, mostly following Seldyan’s escape to Web City and beyond but also following Vess, the man tasked by the Hive to find out how Seldyan managed to escape. It is his infiltration of the Hive and its treatment of him that I found a little harder to follow. We are taken to some dark places – there are skin-creeping moments – and I was repeatedly pleased to be restored to Seldyan’s adventure on the outside.
Seldyan is a great character. She and all of the members of her team have been terribly damaged by their childhood and early adulthood in the Hive and we revisit some of this through flashbacks, bringing us closer to these troubled souls. And I grew to care for Seldyan quite deeply. She is immensely courageous and loyal. She must suffer greatly as she becomes caught up in the struggle that divides Web City.
The aspect of Iron Gods that I enjoyed the most are its fantastic descriptions of incredible things – giant forests, strange habitats, enormous spaceships, peculiar worlds, curious aliens. I love this sort of thing and can’t get enough of it in science fiction. Andrew Bannister brought these wonders to life. As mentioned, I did struggle with elements of the complex story. It left me behind on a few occasions, but I caught up in time to enjoy the fantastic conclusion – the glorious creation of the Spin made the effort well worthwhile.