'Ruimtewedloop' by Charlton Cussans, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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'Ruimtewedloop' by Charlton Cussans, Review

Alexander Wallace joins the space race.
Once again, I present a book from Sea Lion Press; my little blurb at the end of everything I write here tells you I have connections there. This book is a shorter offering from the press, written by a man I am proud to call a friend: Ruimtewedloop by Charlton Cussans.

Cussans studies the history of Southern Africa, and he uses that background to write a science fiction novel deeply informed by the realities of that region. In this regard, he reminds me strongly of Jerry Pournelle or Harry Turtledove or Eric Flint in that he is someone who understands not only technology, but humanity.

Ruimtewedloop’s title is in Afrikaans; it can be translated as ‘space race.’ The future that Cussans paints is what appears to be an optimistic space opera, where something akin to Star Trek’s Galactic Federation of Planets reigns; it is, on the surface, something out of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. All seems well, until it is learned that a community of white South Africans has settled a planet where there are only white people.

Cussans approaches the future, and technology, with the sort of bitter accuracy that a student of history knows best. Much as we would prefer otherwise, there are those who will use new innovations for awful, even regressive, ends; I’ve seen fascism’s approach to technology described as ‘reactionary modernism.’ It also shows that old bigotries will not disappear with bold proclamations of a happy present (as much as Justin Trudeau may dispute that).

Furthermore, Ruimtewedloop is a cautionary tale as to what we do with space. We have dreamed of colonization and expansion and the development of new technologies, but we have not dreamed nearly as much about its culture. Kim Stanley Robinson showed the human foibles of colonists in his Mars trilogy and his 2312, and Cussans extends that discussion into a look at base, vicious prejudice.

The team dispensed to this planet is one that is multiethnic and multispecies. Like many good science fiction stories dealing with such themes, there is an element of culture clash. What it does, unlike many other culture clash narratives, is to demonstrate how slipshod the reasoning of this world’s bigotry really is. Hatred is not a rational thing, and Cussans makes that clear.

Ruimtewedloop is a short book, but one that packs a lot of ideas into those pages. In this regard, it is an efficient narrative, one that knows not to drag out any idea beyond its welcome. Ruimtewedloop is a welcome book, and I enjoyed it very much.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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