Transcendental, an epic, high-concept space opera, is a Canterbury Tales of the far future in which beings from many planets hurtle across the universe to uncover the secrets of the legend of Transcendentalism. Riley, a veteran of interstellar war, however, is not journeying to achieve transcendence, a vague mystical concept that has drawn everyone else on the ship to this journey into the unknown at the far edge of the galaxy. His mission is to find and kill the prophet who is reputed to help others transcend. As the ship speeds through space, the voyage is marred by violence and betrayal, making it clear that Riley is not the only one of the ship’s passengers who is not the spiritual seeker they all claim to be.
As tensions rise, Riley realizes that the ship’s journey is less like the Canterbury Tales and more like a harrowing, deadly voyage on a ship of fools. Looking for allies, he becomes friendly with a mysterious passenger named Asha, who, like so many others on the ship, is more than she appears. But while she professes to be just another pilgrim, he comes to realize that like him, she is keeping secrets could be the key to Riley’s assignment, or might make him question everything he thought he knew about Transcendentalism and his mission to stop it.
This long-awaited novel is a grand space adventure of exploration, intrigue, redemption, and the universal spirit that unites all beings. This is a real departure for Gunn, a novel of grand scope and high concept, a capstone to the career of this Grand Master of science fiction.- Goodreads
Transcendental was a fun book! A group of travelers on a rickety spaceship to find a prophesied device which will help life forms transcend. Of course, not everyone actually wants to find this device. Also, you know, there’s at least one person on board that wants to find either the prophet or the device and them go ker-plooey. It’s not long into the trip when alliances start being made, discoveries revealed, and galactics start dropping like flies. Plus, the captain’s a toe-rag. So, obviously, this is going to be a fun.
I loved this book. Know why I loved this book? Aliens. That’s why. The actual story itself is mildly interesting, but nothing spectacular. However, the sheer breadth (and depth) of alien diversity that James Gunn gives us is wonderful. Not only are his characters vastly different from one another, but he also gives us well thought out backgrounds. These backgrounds don’t just tell us about that particular alien, but about their racial background. The way the stories are told, to, are from such a biased viewpoint that you can’t be sure all of them are true. That actually just lets you wonder and imagine things more.
Honestly, the story of Transcendental itself just rings as an excuse for Gunn to wax poetic about the possibilities of life in the universe. I am utterly fine with that. There is a bit of intrigue in the story, and some deaths to keep it fun. Well, more than a bit. Riley isn’t the greatest character, but watching him set off the other characters was fun. It balanced off some of the predictability to the story line. I also think Gunn chose the perfect setting for the story, too. I don’t know, I guess I just have a thing for flying junkheaps in space. (Browncoat!)
Overall, this was such a good read. It was one you could just sink into and let your imagination fly with. Even after you’re done reading it, your mind is swirling with the possibilities. What was life really like on this various planets? What will happen next for everyone? Why are humans always the young upstarts? Just read it. It’s a lovely piece of work.
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Alright, confession time, this is my first James Gunn novel. I don’t know how I haven’t managed to come across this particular author by now. I mean, he’s won countless awards, and even heads up his own Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction so:
My question for YOU is: What James Gunn novel should I read next??