Cosmoralia’s Prince Ithaca is about to wed Princess Lilia of Ayodoya and be crowned Astralta III. The apparently favorable celestial bearings mean he will be no mere monarch but holy king of a new “papacy”. Alas, the peaceful inhabitants of Planet Astria have no clue that they’re next in line for invasion by a ruthless machine force–a threat that seems to metaphorize the inherent perils of politics and desire in this multilayered saga. The tension slowly mounts to an unbearable pitch in this ominous first volume of three.
Short on action, and long on drama and intrigue, this first volume of Andromeda Stories sets the stage for an epic battle that has become a staple of science fiction: Man vs Machine. Before there was The Terminator, Andromeda Stories was examining the relationship between man and machine, and what it means to be human.
Things start out ordinary enough. Princess Lilia, the protagonist of this first volume, prepares to marry Prince Ithaca after he is crowned King Astralta III. After much ceremony and celebration, the couple begins living happily in the palace. Astralta is a good and kind King, looking out for his subjects. Lilia is deeply in love and devoted to her husband. This idyllic bliss is interrupted by the arrival of what appears to be a meteor. From the meteor, flies out several creatures that look like bats, and take up residence in a tower in the palace. Soon after, people in the palace, starting with servants and workers, begin to change. No longer the warm, happy people they once were, they become cold and menacing. Even the King is affected, becoming cruel and suffering mood swings.
This is the source of much of the drama in this title. Lilia and her personal attendants seem to be the only people unaffected by these radical changes, and the source of these changes brings in the intrigue. Machines. They strike quietly, taking over the minds of the people, including the King and all of his advisers, who are soon transforming the landscape of Cosmoralia into something metallic and sterile. But there are others on Astria who know of the machines and their plans, who also work in secret. Il, a cyborg from another world, has waited for the arrival of the machines in order to stop them, and take revenge for the destruction of her own world. And then there is the old man that lives in the woods of Ayodoya. Seemingly harmless, he too has a plan to stop the machines. His is more subtle, and seems will involve Lilia’s child with Astraltra, as opposed to Il’s direct attacks. He is more powerful than he seems and
This volume builds up a good, sturdy foundation of the title’s world view. It’s a world of both technology and superstition. Machines control water and electricity, but the people still fear demons and worship a holy king. We meet its people and see how they live, and what they value.
We also start to see the first seeds of the “what it means to be human” theme, mostly through the King. Astralta’s personality changes are drastic. He goes from being good and kind to killing animals and people and forcing himself on Lilia. He tries to fight the machine’s take over of his mind, asking for help from both Lilia and Milan, Lilia’s brother, though neither understands his pleas. He becomes isolated and worn down, leaving him vulnerable to the machine’s manipulations. He is slowly losing himself, and thus his humanity.
This is a good, strong start to an grand story, but its focus on the human drama more than the invading machines may be lost on younger readers looking for more action. But you can’t talk about what it means to be human until you show it, and this first volume gives good examples of humanity, both good and ill. If you like science fiction stories with this theme, then Andromeda Stories is a must have. If you like science fiction stories at all, definitely check it out.