S.B. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula nominated author of “Meru,” “Machinehood,” “Runtime,” and “Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations.” Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and she was the co-editor of Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast, from 2017-2022. Divya holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author. In her new book “Meru,” one woman and her pilot are about to change the future of the species in an epic space opera about aspiration, compassion, and redemption. A reading sample is available on Amazon. (Amazon, 2023)
“Meru” – For five centuries, human life has been restricted to Earth, while posthuman descendants called alloys freely explore the galaxy. When the Earthlike planet of Meru is discovered, two unlikely companions venture forth to test the habitability of this unoccupied new world and the future of human-alloy relations. For Jayanthi, the adopted human child of alloy parents, it is an opportunity to rectify the ancient reputation of her species as avaricious and destructive, and to give humanity a new place in the universe. For Vaha, Jayanthi’s alloy pilot, it is a daunting yet irresistible adventure to find success as an individual. As the journey challenges their resolve in unexpected ways, the two form a bond that only deepens with their time alone on Meru. How can Jayanthi succeed at freeing humanity from its past when she and Vaha have been set up to fail? Against all odds, hope is human, too.
The story takes place in the far, far future when humans, whose numbers have dwindled, live in colonies on Earth and their robot/AI descendants called ‘alloys’ are the next form of intelligent life. This concept in itself is what stands out because of the rapid rise in AI in recent years. Combined with science fiction, space exploration, and genetic engineering, it makes for a complex saga filled with technology, friendships, and the ever increasing question of what it means to be human. There are so many types of technologies introduced, like the bodym, the body’s information network, and an incarn, the temporary body that alloys use while on Earth, that at times it is hard to focus on the story itself. While the use of the pronouns zie/zir is commendable, it can be distracting until/unless the reader gets used to them. The language, while occasionally tech-heavy, is relatively easy to understand and the story is mainly dialogue driven and switches narration between Jayanthi and Vaha. ‘Meru’ is an impressive work of science fiction complete with space travel, world building, exploration of the human condition in the face of insurmountable challenges, and even an interspecies romance. Labeled as The Alloy Era Book 1, the story will likely continue, and is recommended for readers who appreciate books on genetic engineering, space exploration, and science fiction. It is certainly an interesting work of science fiction.
“No amount of grief and rage could overcome a lifetime of conditioning. Do the least amount of harm to every form of consciousness, alive or not. A planet might not think and feel, but it had a place in the universe. It deserved respect and kindness, especially from a puny thing like her, whose survival depended upon it.”
*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.