Unexploded Remnants

When I first started writing book reviews, I could count the number of trans authors active in the speculative fiction field on the fingers of one hand. These days they are everywhere. So welcome, Elaine Gallagher, previously best known as a Scottish poet, but now the latest in the stable of novella writers for Tor.com.

Unlike Waypoint Seven (also reviewed in this issue), Unexploded Remnants is one of those books that focuses tightly on the plot, leaving only vague sketches of the vast galactic canvas against which it is set. Alien species are introduced in a sentence and then never heard of again. Our heroine, Alice, goes fleeing through wormhole gateways at dizzying speed, briefly leaving a few footprints on a new world each time, before heading off somewhere new.

Why so much running? Well one of the major influences on the book is Indiana Jones. Alice thinks she has scored a bargain from an antique dealer in a bazar. But before she has a chance to celebrate her fortune she finds herself being chased by an ever-increasing collection of bad guys who are keen to separate her from her prize, preferably with a clean laser cut.

So Alice ends up getting chased over the galaxy, and inevitably there are interludes of extreme violence during which various AIs deploy ridiculously powerful weaponry at speeds mere humans cannot follow. It is very space opera. Reminds me a bit of Banks.

Gallagher, like the Wachowskis, seems obsessed with Lewis Caroll and white rabbits. There is Alice, obviously. Her personal AI is called Bugs. She spends a lot of time going down rabbit holes. I’m not sure if there was supposed to be a purpose to this, but it was fun.

The point of the story, however, is much more serious. The treasure that Alice has picked up is not just a fantastically powerful weapon. It is a soldier in a genocidal war that ended millennia ago. The point of the book is that the most likely response to an atrocity is a retaliatory atrocity, and so on through a cycle of ever-escalating violence. The only way to win such a conflict is to refuse to play. It is a message that many parts of the world need to hear, and none of them seem to want to.

book cover
Title: Unexploded Remnants
By: Elaine Gallagher
Publisher: Tor.com
Purchase links:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Bookshop.org UK
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