Literature: Angel Station
is a science-fiction book written by Walter Jon Williams
, telling a story of a small merchant starship ran by a Brother-Sister Team
. Broke and out of luck, they struggle to maintain their independent way of life, until one day they stumble upon something nobody has encountered before: an alien ship. Being who they are, their first idea is to offer them a trade agreement, which surprisingly seems to be working.The book's main theme is a rather classical form of First Contact
, understood as exchange of ideas between different cultures that mostly come from biological differences.
Angel Station provides examples of the following tropes:
- Artificial Human: Beautiful Maria and Ubu Roy have DNA that was made from scratch by their "father" to give them their significant traits.
- Bee People: Only the Living Ship is considered a member of the alien race of The Beloved; its subjects are more or less just drones (well, mostly).
- Blind Jump: In the book, FTL travel is achieved by using captured black holes (contained within each ship) to open a tear in space-time. Proper calculations are necessary to "ride out the wave" to the proper destination. The protagonists make a random jump, hoping to find a system that will have "catchable" black holes to sell. A similar jump puts a Living Ship (also looking to capture and sell singularities) in the same system, resulting in the events of the book.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Played with. Beautiful Maria and Ubu Roy are not genetic siblings, as they were both genetically engineered by their "father" from scratch. However, they have been raised as brother and sister, so their feelings for each other are no different than if they had biological ties. That said, they have no problem screwing each other whenever they feel like it (it gets pretty graphic at times), although this can be justified by the fact that (after their "father's" suicide) it's just the two of them on long voyages and that their "father" used hormones to boost their growth, which made them all the more horny. They don't see a problem with this, probably because they have limited exposure to other people and they don't really advertise this.
- Brother-Sister Team: Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria work together, live together and rule their ship together.
- First Contact: The main theme of the book.
- Fixing The Game: Beautiful Maria is genetically-engineered with an ability to manipulate electrons with telekinesis. As a way of making money while they look for a contract, she plays a game (with a decent payout) that simulates navigating a ship through a field of black holes. Using her ability, she's able to win consistently by intercepting and altering computer signals before they appear on the screen. Ubu then suggests going for a big score and cheating at the roulette at a big casino on the titular space station. By that point, all casino games are electronic in nature, so Maria feels she has a good chance. She ends up winning a lot, but both are then taken to a back room, where it's revealed that the casino monitors all machines and detects any attempts at hacking them. Their only curiosity is the fact that Maria doesn't appear to have any equipment with her. They start beating on both of them. Even when Maria admits her ability, the casino owners don't believe her. They are thrown out the back of the casino badly beaten and without their winnings.
- Hive Mind: The Beloved. However, this is not as simple as it seems.
- Insectoid Aliens: Many servants of The Beloved, like the navigator race, are insectoid or crustacean-like.
- Living Ship: The alien mothership is both living and sapient.
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Ubu Roy has four arms, for better adaptation to zero-gravity environment.
- No Warping Zone: Ships entering or exiting a jump must do so far away from planets, as the process releases deadly radiation. The protagonists are once forced to jump fairly close to an inhabited moon, realizing they're committing a heinous crime.
- Organic Technology: Pretty much the only tech The Beloved have as a race - but how!
- Our Wormholes Are Different: While the word "wormhole" is never used in Angel Station, all ships use captured black holes in order to perform FTL jumps. Opening a "tunnel" creates in a massive radiation wave that can damage anything for thousands of miles, meaning jumps have to be made far away from planets or other ships. It is also revealed that aliens use the same method. Apparently, any ship can be equipped with devices for capturing black holes. Why they don't get torn to shreds by gravity is never brought up.
- Sapient Ship: The alien mothership, which rules over its drone-like "crew".
- Servant Race: The Beloved's "crew", collectively (though there are many types).
- Space People: The interstellar merchant culture that Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria belong to. It actually considers planets as "dirtballs" - hostile, filthy and depressing. Honestly, what else could be said of a place at the very bottom of a deep gravity well?
- Starfish Aliens: With some alien servant forms, most notably those of specialized but simple function (like cleaning).
- Technopath: Beautiful Maria has a really good understanding of technology, definitely surpassing any mundane talent.
- Transhuman: Both protagonists are genetically engineered for best performance in space.
- You Are Number Six: Members of the Servant Race created by The Beloved's people to crew and maintain them are given designations based on their function and a number - for example, General Volitional Twelve. He's not a "general" in the military sense, but his function is non-specific (i.e. general-purpose).