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4.0 out of 5 stars Lost in Space, 19 Sep 2014
This review is from: Pioneers (Kindle Edition)
This isn't a book that will appeal to everyone. There is not much in the way of `action', there are no loving descriptions of firefights, explosions or Klingons off the starboard bow. Plenty happens, but it the characters reactions to them that is more important to Phillip Mann than blow-by-blow accounts of it.

It is set in a future where mankind no longer is able to reproduce, and in a desperate attempt to save the species, genetically modified Pioneers are sent out to the old colonies to bring back viable people to Earth to help restart the human race.

The main characters of the book are Ariadne and Angelo, and the book is told from the point of view of Angelo, a Pioneer with an ape-like appearance and a claw for one hand, who writes a diary to explore his feelings for Ariadne, the mission, and what they discover.

The colonists they `rescue' are often uncooperative and their mission is not without danger. The presence of one retrieved settler disrupts the ship, and the consequences propel them on a course leading to tragedy and eventual conflict with the `normal' humans who resent the Pioneers who are still able to breed.

This could have been a depressing book, set against the slow eclipse of humanity. Instead it is strangely uplifting as Angelo asserts his identity against those who would dismiss him as less than human, and wrestles with his own feelings that are tested during the mission and on Earth.

I've only read it the once, but I can see it is a book I will be returning to again and again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars fine speculative fiction., 31 Aug 2012
This review is from: Pioneers (Kindle Edition)
I first read this book when it was first published and was immediately drawn into strange and poignant world(s) created by Phillip Mann. The story is told from a unique, almost naive perspective which has a very distinctive feel/flavour. It's not a particularly fast moving story, but does explore some heady topics'

Having gone through two copies of the paperback I'm very happy to find it for Kindle so that I can reread this little treasure.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A 'dark reboot' of Star trek..., 21 May 2011
A. J. Poulter "AP" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pioneers (Paperback)
If this novel had stopped about two thirds of the way through, it would have got the highest possible rating from me. It starts with two genetically-engineered 'rescuers' (one a human-looking woman, Ariadne, the other, Angelo, who resembles a giant apeman and has a claw instead of one hand) journeying to find Pioneer Murray. The Pioneers were humans sent out on one-way journeys to unexplored planets, with equipment to build a habitat if needed and investigate their planet. All space travel is sub-light, using 'deep sleep', so centuries have passed on Earth. After the Pioneer programme ended, Earth has nearly destroyed its biosphere and humanity is becoming sterile. Retrieving the Pioneers is vital to rejuvenating a dying Earth. Yet 'rescuers' are hated by those left on Earth and although some Pioneers have been found and returned, none have proven the key to rejuvenating humanity.

Pioneer Murray seems to be a promising find. He appears reasonably sane and vital, unlike other Pioneers Ariadne and Angelo have found, despite having stayed in his habitat trying to gene-engineer a 'companion'. Yet returning him to Earth precipitates a crisis...

Here the novel should have stopped. The scenario envisaged is powerful and rich in potential. It feels like a 'dark reboot' of all the previous optimistic science fiction about space exploration (like for example 'Star Trek'), here inverted into a dying, xenophobic Earth, a failure to spread Earth's 'culture', no FTL drives, no star-spanning empires and no space-faring aliens. Yet the novel keeps going to effect a final upbeat ending.
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Pioneers by Phillip Mann
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