Betelgeuse 1: The Survivors

We go back to Betelgeuse in the first of LEO’s epic space colonisation drama

LEO’s Aldebaran series started off on an incredible high, then petered off towards the end. This was arguably because it didn’t finish – while the characters resolved their conflicts, the over-arching mystery surrounding the Mantris, and the unusual flora and fauna of Aldebaran, remained well and truly up in the air (and out to sea).

What we didn’t know then, of course, was how tightly entwined the plot of Betelgeuse was going to be. This first Betelgeuse book starts with part two of the story, the first having been published in the last volume of Aldebaran. Don’t even think about coming here if you haven’t already read Aldebaran in its entirety. The mistake I made was in thinking that it was a three book series – we clearly have to read on through Betelgeuse to find any resolution.

Betelgeuse is more of the same, only perhaps, on the evidence of this volume, even better. Kim, Aldebaran‘s young protagonist, finds herself the leader of a UN sponsored mission to investigate what’s happened to the silent colonists of Betelgeuse. Having found the abandoned space craft in the last book, she heads down to the planet to find two opposing groups of colonists – small huddles of people with opposing views on how to proceed and no way to communicate with Earth for advice on how to settle their differences. The first group, lead by a military dictator, has hunkered down for a long term plan of breeding and expanding. The second group consists of scientists, who believe that the panda-like inhabitants of the lush river valley the colonists are settling may be as intelligent as humans, despite their fluffy appearance and apparently limited vocabulary.

The UN dictates that planets with creatures deemed to be as intelligent as humans can’t be settled, so Kim finds herself attempting to resolve the dispute between the two parties once and for all. To do this she pulls together a small group with representatives from both sides, builds a raft and floats off down river to see if she can find out more about these strange, intelligent creatures.

Naturally enough, the two groups have their own agendas so things quickly turn confrontational. And while this is thrilling enough, LEO’s extraordinary illustration of deeply alien creatures and stunning other-worldly landscapes is an armchair-explorer’s dream.

His humans still look like they’re carved from wood at times, with everyone standing incredibly straight and stiff. His drawings have clearly been doctored too, with badly drawn bras being placed, we suspect, over female characters, since such semi-nudity is taken for granted in the book’s native France.

However, the book exudes style and classic expoloratory science fiction. There’s little more exciting than exploring a new world and Betelgeuse lets you do that. Let’s just hope that, come the end of this series, there’s a bit more resolution of some of LEO’s bigger ongoing mysteries.

Read more Worlds of Aldebaran reviews:
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