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April 21, 2023

Descendant Machine by Gareth L. Powell ~ a Review

by MK French

The Grand Mechanism is the dormant machine the size of Saturn’s rings that the alien Jzat watch over. Some Jzat and humans hope to gain power and opportunity if they activate it, but the only person who knows how is the Rav’nah Abelisk, a Jzat holy man on sabbatical aboard a vast alien megaship. Believing the Mechanism’s activation will bring galactic devastation, Nicola Mafalda has to seek out the Abelisk before his sacred knowledge falls into the wrong hands—but only if she can first escape the lethally radioactive remains of her wrecked scout ship.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of space opera novel Descendant Machine by Gareth L. Powell
April 2023; Titan Books; 978-1789094312
ebook, print (336 pages); space opera

We know that the Grand Mechanism is a big deal because the entire novel is framed as an explanation at an inquest, and there are nuclear weapons fired to try to stop Nicola in the very beginning, and desperate measures are taken to save her life. We learn why humans are in the Continuance Fleet, on a journey to explore planets with a post-scarcity economy on the ships, but that doesn't stop humans from wanting more. The minority faction of Jzat is sure that the center of the Mechanism is a power source or a way to travel to more technologically advanced Jzat that can elevate their people. The Abelisk holds two secrets about the Mechanism, and had gone into hiding to keep it away from the populace at large. His secrets are about its origin and purpose, which also potentially could undermine Jzat beliefs in their society. When we find out what those secrets are, they truly are huge, and involve the safety of the entire universe. No pressure on our small team of heroes, right?

Much of the information is seamlessly woven into the story from the different perspectives: the physicist helping to solve equations that keep the Mechanism locked, Nicola and her ship the Frontier Chic. We see glimpses of what others understand about their place in the galaxy and their beliefs about the Mechanism, as well as the mysterious large megaships that lay abandoned in space. The truth is much worse than they assume and would result in a high body count no matter what decision is made.

I love how sci-fi gives such massive stakes for people to solve, and yet it's still up to the individual and their choices. No one is too small or unimportant, and anyone can step up to do the right thing.

Buy Descendant Machine at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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