Although it’s also quite different, there are a lot of things in Orbital: Scars that remind me of Star Wars – the second set of films in particular. The similarities come largely from the undertow of the book, which is set in a time of intergalactic political turmoil. While the story is ultimately about a couple of government agents from very different backgrounds, they’re defined by this political back-story, as it weaves a complex path through the background of the book.
In this particular future, Earth is on the cusp of joining an intergalactic confederacy of planets that has been in existence for more than 8,000 years. After hundreds of thousands of years of warlike behaviour, it seems that humanity is finally getting its act together and showing itself to be peaceful, open and tolerant enough to join the group. It’s a bit like the European Union, but on a much larger scale.
However, as with all things political, there are groups of people who don’t want to join in. From a human perspective, right-wingers don’t want to be a small cog in a mammoth inter-galactic political wheel, lead by people from another planet. And from the aliens point of view, those races who’ve seen the atrocities of human war first hand are struggling to believe that the leopard has sufficiently changed it spots to offer anything but chaos and insecurity to the alliance. These groups will stop at nothing, including acts of terrorism, to bring a halt to proceedings. In reality though, with the majority of humanity and most of the 8,000 other planets working to get Earth on board, the outcome seems inevitable.
At the same time, the first human has been inaugurated into the Interworld Diplomatic Office (IDO). This agency recruits individuals who are a mix of diplomat and soldier, uniquely trained to solve conflicts between member planets. For his first assignment, Cales Swany is teamed up with Mezoke Izzua and sent to a distant planet, to sort out a problem between its indigenous inhabitants and some human colonists over mining rights.
However, history has made things complicated for the agents – Izzua’s race was driven close to extinction in a war with humanity, leaving Swany and his partner in an uneasy alliance. Whether they’ll be able to get over their own difficulties, let alone fix those of another planet, remains to be seen.
The universe has been remarkably well fleshed-out – another element that reminds us of Star Wars. Alien races litter the page, while the murky, washed-out colour makes everything look old and used. Hulking great space ships drift around in space and the architecture is breathtaking.
The characters appear to be veering toward the archetypical and the similarities to Star Wars makes it feel a little less than original. However, it’s more sohpisticated than your average Star Wars film, yet the political back-story is significantly easier to follow. Although you’re not going to be seeing Luke Skywalker and Han Solo running around, nor buying the toys afterwards, this should appeal to a more sophisticated audience – people who like a bit of thorough world-building to lie behind their science fiction, giving it a believable and sophisticated hue.
UPDATE: Orbital 2: Ruptures out now.
|Orbital 2: Ruptures|