Zendra 1.0: Collocation
by Stuart Moore
(Penny-Farthing, 2002)

I love a good villain: Lex Luthor, Satan, Darth Vader, Baron Harkonnen, the Joker, Moriarty, Doctor Doom. In most cases, the villain is the more essential character, giving the hero a raison d'etre; otherwise, where does the story go? That's what makes Zendra 1.0: Collocation a great read -- a great villain named Abathor.

Abathor is the type of villain you just love to hate. He's confident, ruthless and driven, yet doesn't resort to silly puns or over-exposition. This guy is mean as hell for no other reason than that's his style. Centuries ago, his race decided the humans were too perfect and targeted them for genocide. So, he did the best job he could and loved every minute of it.

What makes Abathor stand out is his motivation: boredom. He wasn't disfigured by humans in the past nor was he competing with them for notoriety. He's just lived so long that he wants something to end his boredom. Luckily enough, he comes across Halle, a human/maker hybrid that just might lead him to the mythical last bastion of humanity -- Zendra.

OK, so the central character of Collocation is actually Halle, whose destiny involves Zendra, but there's plenty of Abathor to enjoy. As for Halle's story and her motivation, if I get into the details of this science-fiction story, you might get lost. It's your basic tale of a young person discovering her potential. (Orson Scott Card, anyone?)

The main players are the Makers (one in particular), the Jekarrans and the Aesirians. The Makers have a "utopic" society built upon hard science and technology. The Jekarrans are a war-driven race that annihilated the human race centuries ago. The Aesirians are mysterious guardians of the wormholes that exist beyond the boundaries of time (not unlike the Spacing Guild from Frank Herbert's Dune).

With plenty of aliens, action, a bleak futuristic setting, adventure and a great villain, Collocation contains all the elements of good science fiction. The scope of the story is broad yet completely accessible. Plus, I appreciate Stuart Moore's optimism for the human race, as they are regarded as physically and culturally perfect in the distant future. My only complaint is his overuse of subtlety, such as the lackluster introduction to Zendra. It's the title of the book, yet once Halle arrives you get this feeling of, "Oh, so she got there. Huh." Being reunited with humanity should be a pretty grand event!

You know, don't bog yourself down with particular elements of the story. The grand epic sense and the characters are the selling points of this book, especially the antagonist Abathor. In gathering together the concepts of a big space chase, great art, a transforming hybrid female, a 700-year-old villain and various alien species with cybernetic parts, Zendra 1.0: Collocation lives up to its title.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 20 December 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.