Elizabeth Bear: “Dust” (c) 2007
“Dust” is the first book in the space opera trilogy “Jacob’s Ladder” by Elizabeth Bear.
“Jacob’s Ladder” is an Earth generation ship sent to explore space with a mission to find habitable worlds. Catastrophic damage strikes the ship and it has become caught in orbit around a double star.
“Dust” is a complex story about genetically engineered descendants of the original human crew; of super-intelligent fragmented AIs, which were themselves once an integrated AI; a story of the struggle for political power, and of repairing the ship to save it from the impending supernova.
The damaged ship has been in orbit around the double star for about 500 years. In the domains where life is still possible, two powerful groups emerge from the descendants of the original crew, the House of Rule and the House of Engine.
Commodore and Captain, Alasdair Conn, is dead. Sir Perceval Conn of Engine is the next rightful Commodore and Captain, but she is challenged and captured by Lady Ariane of Rule. Perceval escapes with the help of her half-sister Rien.
When the ship became disabled, the AIs became fragmented in order to maintain and rebuild the ship. The AIs are referred to as Angels and the AIs are themselves in a power struggle to be the main ship-mind, to be a part of the next Commodore and Captain.
The two most powerful AI fragments are Jacob Dust and Samael. Jacob is the Angel of Memory; his domain is control of the memory systems. Samael is the Angel of Life Support systems and the Angel of Death.
One of the double stars is a white dwarf which will explode at any moment into a supernova. Can the ship escape before the supernova? Can the ship ride the magnetic crest of the supernova? It becomes imperative to repair the ship, to make it mobile again. For that to happen, the AIs need to be reintegrated, and the rightful Commodore and Captain to be in charge.
Trilogy series: “Jacob’s Ladder” by Elizabeth Bear
Dust (2007); Chill (2010); Grail (2011)