Review: Medusa Uploaded
Real politics, the actual grind and wear of backdoor committees, debates, and miles-long legislation is a snore. Unless you enjoy reading obscure case law or an inane housing clause that forbids people from living in a “den of iniquity,” you’re likely not going to enjoy any political fiction.
Luckily for you, and me, I enjoy reading such dry-as-wall-paint material.
MEDUSA UPLOADED follows Oichi Angelis, a worm, the lowest of the castes on the generational ship, Olympia. Discovering a secret that could fundamentally overturn her structured, stratified society, she is silenced by one of the elites. But, as chance would have it, Oichi is saved by a mysterious living armor and hidden AI, the titular Medusa. Together, the two endeavor to bring about political revolution, one dead, corrupt Executive at a time.
There’s a fascinating world here, of despotic future aristocrats, worn-down but articulate servants, and the idea of what political violence and the art of assassination does to one’s self, soul, and society. The question, as Oichi herself asks, is a classic one.
Can change come from such merciless means?
Unfortunately, the story relies on too many tensionless deus ex machinas (Medusa’s near invulnerability makes any action sequence near harmless), convenient, unsubtle plot developments, and events just happening at random. To be fair, writing a thriller is tough: You have to consider the characters’ machinations, create enough dead-ends, subtle coincidences, and foreshadowed plot beats to entertain the reader. And at the same time, you have to balance it with an engaging plot.
Despite its intriguing setup, the novel can’t seem to decide on a central plot direction: futuristic political thriller or science-fiction novel of manners. And unable to build on its mix-matched plot structure, the secondary characters exist only to further Oichi’s hit-list, assist in her social experiment, or offer plot coupons, and then, like the tools Oichi discards, vanish for entire pages.
On the plus side, the novel, and Devenport, understands politics is not an us versus them mindset. It’s Oichi versus this clan versus this mysterious third-party versus the dog who lives in her head. Sure, there’s no dog in her head, but Davenport nails the reality of politics.
There’s no two-sided conflict in the political arena, at least not here.
In addition, there’s a vivid, and personalized, account of how the ship works, how the castes interact, and how this future, and Earth’s past, unfolds through Oichi’s eyes. For those who desire deep world-building, there’s enough ghosts on these grave ships to satisfy the world-building fanatic, or enthusiast.
My particular issue with the novel, and many political thrillers, is the majority of the antagonists possess the collective IQ of a sun-dried sea-sponge. They’re smart enough to outwit their vapid and cruel clan rivals, but not smart enough to, perhaps, check on the mysterious deaths of said rivals. Even with Oichi’s handy hacking and evidence-tampering, everyone seemingly has plot amnesia, unless it’s necessary to advance the plot.
Political plot amnesia, it’s a legitimate syndrome affecting our poor fictional friends.
Also, I can say with certainty this novel is the start of a series.
While disappointing in certain regards, rough with its machinations, there is a sound concept, an intriguing narrator, and enough plot hooks for the inevitable sequel to keep readers waiting for the next novel. Give it a shot and decide for yourself if this thriller’s a suspenseful or sleepy tale.
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: Fair amount.
- Violence: A mixture of off-screen violence and direct violence.
- Sex: Implied, and allusions to sexual assault.