If I asked some people where they would like to go for their next vacation, people may name places like Hawaii, Italy, Florida, Tahiti, or any number of places. No one would say ‘to a faraway planet where I can visit my past memories.’ The concept of easy travel between Earth and other planets is strange to us, but in Transitory, Ian Williams makes it seem like an everyday occurrence, as simple as a commute to and from work.
Transitory tells the story of Nathan Maddox, CEO of a mining company that searches space for new mines. He and his coworker Helen attend a festival on another planet where people can travel back and revisit old memories. While Nate partakes in the festivities, with a bodyguard named Cameron and a guide named L’Armin in tow, Helen stays behind. When Nate’s view of his most precious memories are marred by a mysterious intruder, Nate realizes that he has become a target for an intergalactic assassination attempt. Even worse, he suspects that someone he has trusted his whole life is behind the plan to take his life. Nate realizes that he must stop the mysterious would-be assassin before he dies in his past memories on another planet (where would THAT funeral be held?).
Ian’s ability to effectively use language to describe, characterize, and narrate is superb. Although the esoteric descriptions can slow down reading at times, they in no way distract from the enjoyment of the story. Ian is highly skilled at narrating a scene to make the reader as if he or she is actually experiencing the events him- or herself. The characters are far from flat. They are very well-characterized to the point where you feel you know them personally; Nate can be your coworker or your drinking buddy. My personal favorite character is L’Armin, whose duties as host and tour guide do not stop him from challenging Nate’s long-held beliefs, drilled into him since childhood by his relentlessly ambitious, workaholic father.
L’Armin gives Nate several points to consider. The first is exploiting others for personal gain and profit. When Nate mentions to L’Armin that his company mines space rocks and actively seeks out new sources, L’Armin, whose race had once been enslaved, L’Armin clearly expresses his disapproval. Another is respect for other cultures and races, even if they are from another planet. In one unforgettable scene, L’Armin takes Nate and Helen to visit what was once the home land of L’Armin’s race. Nate is shocked at the sight of the deserted wasteland that was once his friend’s home.
Another theme that recurs throughout the story is trust versus betrayal. By the end of his journey through his past memories, Nate is so confused that doesn’t know whom to trust, and even briefly believes Helen is behind the plot. The interaction (apparently peaceful) between humans and aliens sends a strong social message of peace and tolerance.
I first read Transitory almost a year ago (this post has been transferred from another blog site) and it is still one of my science fiction favorites. Check it out today.
To check out Transitory at the Amazon store: http://www.amazon.com/Transitory-Ian-Williams-ebook/dp/B00LACOVU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413420078&sr=8-1&keywords=transitory