Christian Solari asked me to read their novel "The Experiment". It's about these aliens who want to see how intelligent life develops and then get scared when their creations develop hyperspace techonology. I will examine plot, characters and polish, and then assign a grade.
There are two plot threads in this story. They intertwine like DNA. In the first thread, there's the Universe Confederation investigating the Experiment. This investigation is complicated, but in a nutshell, the UC wants to determine if subjects of the Experiment (humans, by the way, sort of, it's complicated) will play nice with the rest of the universe. It's basically a "Humanity on Trial" plotline, except no human is aware that trial is taking place. In the second thread, there's the Frontier Space Program pushing to prove that Hyperspace travel is possible. It is this second thread that triggers the first and so they mutually develop alongside each other and influence each other. They are, in fact, so intertwined, that either one of them could be "The Experiment" from the title.
It's fascinating to watch this story start up and develop. MR. Solari's constructed world is well thought out.
On Tvtropes, we have this page called "Blue and Orange Morality" which states that is a system of morality separate from the "Good/Evil" axis on which basic human morality operates. The page also states that some writers fail to make a true example and instead create "evil by a different name." I feel that's not the case here. Mr. Solari genuinely tried to create a culture that works on a different wavelength-sufficiently alien for something that claims to be "truly intelligent/ high intelligence" that a human (i.e. the reader) would still be able to recognize as valid.
This may or may not be the case, but their values are not internally consistent. They claim that "fear" is a primordial emotion that they left behind but the entire purpose for "terminating the Experiment" (i.e. solar system wide genocide) is because they're afraid that humans will harm them/their way of life. They claim to be "fully cooperative" yet they have many arguments among themselves and don't involve humans in their decision making. They claim that "destruction is never an option" yet they can't think of any solution to their Preintelloids-With-Hyperspace tech problem other than Kill Them All. They sound like hypocrites.
I say "may or may not" because I don't feel like Mr. Solari meant to portray the Universe Confederation as truly superior. It feels like more an inversion of What Measure Is A Non-Human. There are parallels between the Universe Confederation (the aliens) and the Union (the humans). Both of them deal with an experiment that will change their world and engage in morally ambiguous behavior in the process. I think Mr.Solari's point is that neither of them were as great as they believed themselves to be.
It has a peculiar turn of events in the third act. Suffice to say it's a mixture of Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions and Messanic Archetype in the same person.
I like the ending. Given the premise, making the ending neat and tidy would be unrealistic. This is a resolution of conflict that's not a "The End".
It's a diverse cast here. There are about a dozen or so main characters and all of them are distinct and well developed.
I found it interesting that the most prominent Universe Confederation members are named after Egyptian Deities. Amun was the sun god and here he's the guy in charge of The Experiment. Amaat was the concept of unity and here he is a mediator. Anubis was the god of embalmers, thus associated with death, and his role is to argue for the "termination" of the Experiment. As a side note, this is Everyone Hates Hades because Anubis wasn't considered evil or a maker of death. That's someone else.
Geb is a fascinating character. A scientist that's also a Messianic Archetype. It's a transformation and fusion. If being "fully cooperative" is the mark of "high intelligence:" then I'd say he's the only truly intelligent character in this story.
Huan is a fun character. She's a Genki Girl and brings life to many scenes. Her interactions with the stoic Gup make her even more fun. She's also a walking proof that the "pre-intelliod-Intelliod" line is blurrier than the Universe Confederation makes it out to be. Despite her aggressive-selfish genes, she has the empathy to understand the intelliods she encounters.
No spelling or grammar problems. This is a dense but easy read.
The only flaw I see is in the UC's decision making. They do not consider any options other than "All or nothing". There's a sense that the author meant to show them as flawed but the lack of a clear What the Hello Hero make this mere speculation. If something like this was present, I'd give this story a perfect grade.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Experiment" a B+
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