Colony (Rob Grant novel)
First edition cover
|Genre||Comedy, Science fiction novel|
|2 November 2000|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||288 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||0-670-88965-2 (first edition, hardback)|
Colony was the first novel written by Rob Grant outside the Red Dwarf series. First published in 2000 by Viking Press in the United Kingdom it stays within the comedy, science fiction genre. The narrative is set on a spaceship sent on a voyage to colonise another planet, since Earth has been rendered uninhabitable. The mission is set to take numerous generations. Ten generations into the voyage, however, the crew's mental abilities have all been severely reduced, setting the events of the novel in motion.
The story starts on Earth in the future. Global warming and over population has caused an imminent apocalypse. The hope for the survival of the human race is a spaceship called the Willflower, which will take a small number of the world's best minds on a journey to colonize another planet. Eddie O'Hare, the protagonist, is not one of them. He is deep in debt due to his computer having mysteriously stolen several million dollars online, then sending it to an unknown location. As such, he decides to gamble what money he has left in the hope of getting enough to pay back the debts. On his way to the casino, he meets a pink-socked assassin who he fears may have been sent to kill him. It turns out that he has not (or at least, Eddie is not the man's current target).
When gambling the last of his money, Eddie wins- thanks to him mimicking the gambling decisions of a man who looks uncannily like himself-, but the casino is no longer operational; due to the Willflower's imminent departure, the town (which was created only to house people working on the project), is closing down, and the casino has already lost all its money to the other man. He leaves and decides to hide. Whilst doing so, he happens to meet the man whose luck he 'piggy-backed' on earlier. He discovers that the other man, Charles Perry Gordon, is due to go on the Willflower but doesn't want to go now that he was won such a vast amount of money. Due to the ramifications for the rest of his family Gordon cannot refuse to leave, so he offers Eddie a place in place of himself. Eddie successfully smuggles himself on board (Unaware that Gordon had intended to sell him out as an impostor once the ship took off and it was too late for him to join the mission, only for Gordon to be killed by the hitmen he hired to simulate Eddie's alleged 'assault' because they had also been hired by the casino staff to get the money back). As Gordon's job is the community planner, Eddie reads the plans so far to learn more about his job and discovers that the man he is replacing has enforced a fascist, totalitarian system: crew members are paired for life before they are even born, and jobs- even unpleasant ones such as prostitution- are inherited. However, shortly after the ship sets off he is murdered by an unknown assailant.
The story then jumps forward several generations. Eddy is revived as a cyborg with only his head and spinal column remaining of his original body, and trapped forever in a jar of green slime (Even worse, the nerve endings are incorrectly wired, so that, for example, he moves his right arm when trying to move his left foot). He finds himself on a ship full of idiots and that there is something going wrong with the ship; all but one of its engines are gone and it has only 20% of its manoeuvring thrusters. The ship needs to land soon, but only three planets are available: Thrrrppp, which is the most habitable but with no way for the ship to enter orbit, Penis, which the ship has a 50% chance of docking with but is covered in volcanoes, and Panties, which is totally hostile but has a 90% chance of docking. As the only intelligent life form on board it is up to him to find out what is happening.
As he explores the ship, he meets more of the ship's mentally retarded crew, none of which have even the slightest ability to perform their jobs. He is puzzled by this, the fact that the crew is totally illiterate and, most importantly, the fact that the ship, which has been shown to be able to self-repair itself if it takes damage, has not done so. The ship is also on a collision course with a massive gas giant which does not appear on the radar system. The ship's less than moral priest attempts to leave in the nuclear-powered escape pod, but fails thanks to the captain overriding the system. Eddie decides to cause the escape pod to self-destruct in the hope that the explosion will force the ship towards planet Thrrrppp. This fails when the priest steals the pod- accompanied by some of the ship's prostitutes to help him 'rebuild' human society, destroying the remaining engines in the process.
Eddy is forced to leave the ship and go and see what is happening. Outside, he is drawn back into the ship by an unknown force. He encounters the assassin from the beginning of the novel, who was revived in another survival suit but driven completely homicidally insane by the process, still intent on fulfilling his centuries-old contract (At the same time, Eddie has a flashback where he realises that the original Father Lewis killed him to stop him spreading 'his' mad plans any further). Before he can do so, however, the ship kills him. It then talks to Eddy and reveals what has been happening. Its internal self-repair systems, it transpires, were also capable of self-modification, eventually becoming self-aware. Realizing the madness that the original crew had instigated, it made the crew members illiterate to erase all memory of the old system. It has also gained the ability to time travel into the past, where it can affect electronics, but not take a physical form. Back on Earth, humanity has become extinct; the crew of the Willflower are all that is left. The ship had selected Eddie to look after the crew as he was the only person with sufficiently low self-esteem to survive the cybernetic revival system; the sheer horror of the suit would have driven anyone else insane, but Eddie expected so little out of life that he actually came through the process as a better person. The ship causes Eddy's computer to steal the money (instigating the series of events that caused Eddie to arrive on the ship), then repairs itself and flies the crew to planet Thrrrppp.
Characters in "Colony"
- Eddie O'Hare
- An accountant posing as a community planner and, a few generations later, mistaken for a doctor and resurrected in an egg-like robot suit with nerve endings incorrectly connected (to the extent that the nerves controlling his new body's right hand should control a muscle in his anus). He believes himself to be the unluckiest man ever (and in the words of the novel: "bluntly, he's got a damn point"). Despite the contempt with which he is regarded, the rest of the crew come to subconsciously see him as a leader.
- Paolo San Pablos
- A hitman with a penchant for pink socks. A homicidal maniac, allegedly known to resort to spree murder as an anti-boredom device, he stowed away on the Willflower to kill Eddie as part of a contract, but was caught and put in suspended animation before he was revived. The revival procedure caused him to go insane, brutally disembowelling several people before the ship neutralises him.
- Bernadette Oslo
- A member of the Willflower's crew; although her precise role on the ship is unclear, her nagging familiarity to Eddie, coupled with his asexual fondness for her, suggests that she may be his own descendant.
- Father Lewis
- The ship's priest, although, by his own admission, his career is difficult due to his atheism (jobs are inherited, preventing him from changing roles). A fan of pornography, he possesses several video tapes of the women's shower room. He has installed a network of cameras throughout the ship, partly to gain more pornographic material but also to spy on people. He is not above blackmailing people with these images. Towards the end of the novel, he escapes the Willflower in the one remaining functional escape pod, taking the ship's prostitutes with him.
- Clones of the original security chief. Incredibly stupid, mainly due to the mental deterioration involved in every new batch of drones (they are described in the blurb as "having the mental agility of pond life"), most people simply treat the drones as equipment, with Eddie being the sole exception. Each Styx drone has a letter branded on their forehead and a name beginning with this letter to distinguish between them. The Styx drones are dangerously enthusiastic about their jobs, with one drone even accidentally killing himself by firing his laser rifle at a door on the maximum power setting at point blank range.
- Trinity Peck
- The Willflower's science officer, who unfortunately, is in fact a religious fanatic who reacts to danger by beating herself with a whip while naked to punish herself for not noticing the problem earlier. She regards Eddie as an agent of the Devil.
- Captain Gwent
- A spotty teenager who names planets after bodily functions and parts (specifically, "Thrrrppp", "Penis", "Panties", and "Jockstrap") and appears totally unconcerned about the fact that he is meant to be in charge of the mission (His father died under unspecified circumstances shortly before Eddie's revival). He is totally incompetent as a leader, but nobody seems to try and remove him from power, mainly because jobs are inherited and nobody knows who is meant to take the captain's place in this situation.
- Captain Berwick Gwent
- The original captain of the mission. Refers to himself as "Community Director", speaks ridiculously loudly and makes "jokes" in Latin. In terms of age, he is described as either "a well preserved sixty or a gone to seed forty with inadequate access to hair dye".
- Amalgam Willard-Walters aka The Professors
- Two bitter rivals whose minds have been merged into one body. They have been put in cryogenic storage, as they have been constantly arguing and attempting to commit suicide.
Received initial very well by the SciFi buying public the novel continued to sell strongly into following years. By March 2002 it had sold more than 22,500 copies.
- Cowie, Jonathan (2002). "UK book publishing industry to take SF seriously...(?)". concatenation.org. Retrieved 2007-05-03.