Red Queen: The Substrate Wars is both a thoroughly entertaining read and a primer on modern day rightism from a member of the rightist movement. Highlighted are the true beliefs of those of us on the right, and not the slanted, stilted cries of RAAAAAAAAACISM!!!! that often come from those on the left. As a matter of fact, I would absolutely recommend this work to anyone on the Left who is interested in taking a look at the rightist point of view as explained in our own words and not as we are slandered by mainstream media outlets like CNN or MSNBC. I don't want to go too far down this road though. Red Queen is, at its heart, a story of Science Fiction and rebellion and one that does a terrific job of entertaining first and delivering message second.
When we meet our hero, Justin Smith, he is hard at work in a computer lab running a simulation of the evolution of a planet full of life. The life in the simulation is, at this point, incredibly basic. It's a concept we'll come back to throughout the story though and makes a good metaphor for the advancement of the plans of Justin and his friends as the story moves forward. As their movement expands and becomes more complex so does the life in the simulation. I'm not entirely certain I'm doing a good job of describing what it adds to the story, but there is definitely something here. It is entirely possible that there was something here that I missed as well, as the interpretation I made at the beginning may have been overridden by later developments. I'll leave it to the sequel to see if I was right or not.
This novel is not the quickest to start, but given the fact that it is the first in the series that is hardly surprising. As a matter of fact, I debated about reviewing it at first because the SF part of the story doesn't really come into play until we meet Steve Duong and find out what he's building. Once it does though, it's off to the races and the plot starts moving very quickly. Our friends find their involvement in things illegal and semi-legal deepening at every step. Government monitoring starts and is gradually increased. A couple of our heroes are arrested and make the kind of escape only possible in an SF novel. Another planet is visited using a method that I won't reveal here, except to say that it is similar in some ways to a spacefold in Robotech and also similar to the method of travel seen in Event Horizon yet totally different in that it doesn't actually involve a ship.
The story eventually turns into one of a revolution aborning. The problem with a story like that is that there is no way that a group of college students could pull off a revolution without making some fairly major mistakes. Kinnison's solution to the problem is to let them make those mistakes in ways that are both believable and entertaining. Sometimes it's a small thing, like a password left written on a notepad. At other times, foul-ups come as major issues like the siren song of another man's woman. Regardless of how they happen, they never fail to move the plot forward and keep things interesting.
The story is not perfect. Kinnison frequently injects political statements into conversations that run a bit longer than they really need to. It seems to me that the characters in the story are a little too quick to understand all of the potential uses and consequences of the quantum computer in the story. Steve Duong picks up on something monumental off-screen and does it in seemingly less time than it takes to talk about it. That much being said, all of these are forgivable as well as probably being plot-necessary. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well written story and is prepared to either enjoy or accept some political content to go with it.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 quantum computers
Red Queen: The Substrate Wars
Jeb Kinnison Publishing, 2014
On Sunday: Something Hunger Games related. I'm not sure what yet