The Grand Conjunction (Astropolis Book 3), by Sean Williams
So, farewell then, Imre Bergemasc, one-time ruler of the known universe. Your creator, Sean Williams, has certainly put you through a lot in the Astropolis trilogy: you have fought wars, shifted loyalties, made copies of yourself, become humanity’s leader among the stars, woken up in the body of a woman, lost your memory, discovered a copy of yourself was trying to kill you (a situation for which English grammar is barely adequate) and who knows what else besides. Now, finally, in The Grand Conjunction, you (and we) get to find out just what the hell is going on!
At the end of volume two, Earth Ascendant, you resigned your post as First Prime and headed off in to the stars to try and find your other self, the self that you believed had turned itself in to a Fort (a kind of super-brainy person distributed among many human forms), the self that has made multiple attempts on your life. After all, you’re only alive by accident, a copy that should have been erased, resurrected by mistake. Clearly, you got sidetracked, because the faux-noir opening of this book is an unexpected but enjoyable diversion, with its cast of shady characters and distressed innocents straight out of Raymond Chandler. It’s good fun trying to work out what’s going on, and crossword fans will definitely find it satisfying.
Once you’re back in the universe at large, you discover that a lot of time has passed and a lot of things have changed: there is now a civil war between, on the one side, your long-time associates Emlee Copas, Al Freer and Render (unlike us, you don’t realise that he talks solely in Gary Numan lyrics), and on the other, your son, Ra MacPhedron; humanity has been changed by the adoption of a symbiotic parasite known as the Veil, which you unwittingly unleashed on the galaxy, and by the fallout from an order that you gave just before you headed off in to the void – as usual, others have had to live with the consequences of your actions. This time, you must solve the mysteries that have haunted you since your first revival: who are the Luminous? Who are the Barons and how are they connected with your Fort-self? What is the version of you that is trying to kill you after (here we butt up against the limitations of language again), and will you end up co-operating once you understand what is truly at stake?
All this, and more, is revealed to you, punctuated by breathless space combat and desperate gambits that could affect the future of humanity. When your Fort-self projects for you the future of humanity, the evolutions and sacrifices that may be required in order to beat the Lumious, it’s a truly jaw-dropping piece of SF extrapolation and large-scale thinking, in which we have to question whether the essence of humanity would be truly preserved. And finally, finally, you get the answers you are looking for, and a way forward (and did I mention another sex change?).
It’s been a fascinating ride, and this is a worthy finale. Imre Bergemasc, farewell.