Now that I have finished reading The Settlers, I am glad I didn’t stop. I say that because I did initially stop. In fact, I made it known on Twitter that I stopped. There were no quotation marks around the dialogue. I’ve never read any book without them, so I got nervous. I decided I had to continue, and I am sure glad I did because the dialogue in this book was fantastic. I mean, it made the book.
The Settlers is a story about a group of people that are facing the greatest challenge that humans have faced. Sure, the premise is one that we’ve hear before, but it is nonetheless still based in reality. We are damaging Earth. In this book, it seems that that damage hit a tipping point and our world is rapidly spiraling out of control. Entire landmasses are underwater, and the Earth is falling apart. At least, the parts that we have inhabited for so long. Something has to be done to preserve humanity.
So humans start to build large space stations that orbit around the Earth. At first, the stations are thrown together rapidly, owing to the nature of the emergency on the planet. Gradually though, humans begin to perfect these stations. They become complex and extravagant. At some point, the crisis on Earth is solved and it seems that the planet is still habitable, but people keep coming to the new stations. Might as well, they are like small countries floating around up there.
Where The Settlers really gets interesting, and where Gurley shows his obvious love of sci-fi classics, is how these stations operate, particularly with the Argus station. This large space colony is set up to operate based on a governing system that rings familiar with elements from 1984, Brave New World, and many others. Heck, I couldn’t help but drift back to my ancient Greek philosophy class from college. It was as if Plato himself had written a modern version of The Republic. There is a sanctioned class system that includes who works what type of job as well as reproductive rights. The station goes as far as admitting that they are creating a different type of human; a smarter type of human.
Gurley does a fantastic job with the characters, though we only get to follow a few through the entire book. I found myself getting to know each one, which is no small feat considering how little time he actually gives you with each character. What made me feel particularly involved was his use of dialogue. Once you figure out how easy it is to read without quotation marks, the words flow through your mind as if you are actually talking to the characters. The dialogue was beautiful, and I actually made that exact note at one point in my Kindle. Here is one line that I highlighted that stuck out to me
Rivers are like thread…They stitch place together. They are seams that connect very different lands. I think it is lovely that you are an anthropologist. What better name for a woman who might herself be a river through time?
I’m not sure why that stuck out to me early on, but I knew that the rest would be amazing. Gurley relies on character dialogue to carry the book, which is very hard to do. Aside from character development, I think dialogue is the next hardest thing to perfect in a book. The job is accomplished here.
This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to start the next book. The Settlers ends with two of the main characters encountering a pretty bad situation, and I can’t help but think back to an earlier part of the book when one character said
Equality, he would sometimes say, is a myth even in cultures that acknowledge and promote it.
The entire book is set on the backdrop of equality, or lack thereof. Gurley experiments with the concept, and leaves the book heading in a direction that makes me want more. Sitting here now, he has made me wonder if it is better to live in a place where the government openly denies equality, or one that says everyone is equal but in fact they never will be. Basically, would you rather someone lie to your face, or do it behind your back?
Thanks for putting out such a great book, Jason Gurley. I look forward to the rest.