cover image The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred

Greg Egan. Subterranean, $40 (96p) ISBN 978-1-59606-791-2

Readers who found Egan’s dense Orthogonal trilogy rough going will be pleasantly surprised by this intriguing novella, which successfully incorporates hot-button issues of intellectual property rights and government reparations for systematic bigotry into a far-future SF story. The asteroid Vesta is riven by a deeply felt split between descendants of the syndicates which colonized it a century earlier. The Sivadiers brought “expertise and intellectual property,” such as special mining techniques, to the enterprise, but their contributions are delegitimated by some of the heirs to the other syndicates, which had provided tangible assets such as ships and robots. The agreement that the founders of the Vesta colony reached declared that any wealth it produced would be shared equally among all the syndicates, an arrangement that now rankles those non-Sivadiers who consider the entire concept of owning human ideas corrupt, and who demand compensation for decades of economic inequity. The tensions lead to an immigration crisis for the nearby asteroid Ceres, placing its leaders in a moral dilemma. This is top-notch thought-provoking and suspenseful space opera, with impressively effective worldbuilding given its short length. (Dec.)