Expendable Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1 1997
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Great writing carries this unusual story about the Explorer Corps., the branch of the League of Peoples responsible for investigating planets and contacting new life forms. The catch is that corp members usually die in the process. That's why the corps comprises the medical misfits of society--people healthy enough to function yet disfigured or deformed enough that no one cares all that much if they die. Festina Ramos is an "Expendable Crew Member" who has just been ordered to escort a soon-to-be-senile admiral to Melaquin, a planet with an impeccable record for killing Explorer teams. It was meant to be a one-way mission to rid the League of one more has-been admiral, but Festina has other ideas about how things will turn out.
From the Back Cover
From a remarkable new science fiction voice comes a stunning debut novel of bold imagination--an exciting tale of deep space, alien worlds, and the select group of men and women whose mission is to make first contact with the unknown. They are ... expendable.
Under the benevolent leadership of the League of Peoples, there is no war, little crime, and life is sacred... unless you're an Explorer. The ugly, the flawed, the misfit, the deformed--they are the unwanted, flung to the furthest corners of the galaxy to investigate hostile planets and strange, vicious creatures. Out there, there are a thousand different--and terrible--ways to die.
Festina Ramos belongs to the well-trained, always-dwindling ranks of ECMs (Expendable Crew Members). Now she and her partner, Yarrum Derigha, have been ordered to escort the unstable Admiral Chee to Melaquin--the feared "Planet of No Return"--which has swallowed up countless Explorers before them without a trace. Obviously, this is meant to be the last mission for Ramos and Derigha. But it won't be if Festina can help it.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Many science-fiction novels, television series, and films present the future as something which should be desired by the people of our present time. Expendable, however, shows the future as not-so-desirable in two pertinent ways: 1.) Humanity can rule itself, but must constantly act within the strict guidelines established and summarily enforced by The League of Peoples, which take on a nearly-mystical, nearly-godlike role, knowing all without ever being seen; 2.) Not everyone is "beautiful," and those with both the aptitude and the lack of beauty are made into Explorers, also known as Expendable Crew Members because of the logic that "no one will miss someone who is not beautiful" - this despite the easy availability of numerous surgical procedures to essentially MAKE someone beautiful.
This second point is what truly grabbed my attention from the second page. The main character, Festina Ramos, was born with a "birthmark" condition which has left "a lurid port-wine birthmark covering the right half of my face from cheekbone to chin." A very close friend of more than a decade has the same "birthmark," so the tale spun by Gardner is particularly personal.
Gardner's writing style is excellent - easy to follow, providing technological explanations without being deeply detailed, and split into short segments (ranging from several paragraphs to - rarely - several pages in length) grouped together as chapters to enable the reader to stop at really any point and feel it is a good stopping point (thus making it a great book for those who are often interrupted when reading).Read more ›
This book is basically about disability. People who go through life with some affliction. The premise of the book is that if someone popular in an organisation dies, then it affects the morale of the organisation. Thus in the future those people who become space explorers undertaking dangerous missions will the the ugly the deformed. That way if they keep getting killed no one is to upset.
Of course in the future people will probably only have selected clones as children or the technology will exist to remove things like birthmarks. So really this is a book about being ugly or suffering from a disfigerment and the problems that it brings.
The thrust of the book is that the main character of the book goes through a number of adventures and although in the end she is able to cure the defect that she has ( a large birthmark on her face) she is not concerned about it and feels at peace with herself.
The book of course is written for young people who despite all looking youthfull and attractive go through a period of feeling that they are ugly. A book like this is no doubt a good idea as they can learn the very real message that physical beauty is something which has its advantages but in real life ones sense of self depend on so many things apart from appearance.
The book is very easy to read and it creates a world which is interesting and new, even if in the end it is about a very here and now theme.
The League of Peoples have imposed bans on Terrans and other peoples within their jurisdiction. The most dramatic is the ban against the interstellar transportation of persons who have committed homicide. Such people just die as soon as their ship goes into interstellar space and so does everybody who assisted in their transport. Their attitude is: kill each other as much as you desire, but don't export the killers.
In this novel, Festina and Yarrun Derigha, her subordinate, are ordered to accompany Admiral Chee to the surface of Melaquin. The orders are a little disconcerting, for Chee is 150 years old with declining mental faculties; in addition, though many Explorers have gone down to the planet's surface, none has ever returned; but, what the heck, Explorers are expendable.
When Festina, Yarrun, and their batty Admiral reach the surface, Chee immediately discards his tightsuit and breathes the air. Festina and Yarrun ignore him and start a survey of their surroundings. Nothing dangerous appears on the bumbler, so they start sampling the soil and lifeforms. Suddenly, they notice that the Admiral is no longer with them and is nowhere in sight.
This story is a tale of official corruption and unofficial bigotry. The Admiral is a hoot; he has lost almost all his inhibitions and tells it as he sees it. Underneath his cynical remarks, however, works a very shrewd mind.
Recommended for anyone who enjoys nitty-gritty yarns of people in a no-win situation.
Most recent customer reviews
Arrived exactly as expected and within the expected dates. Overall a great sale.Published 21 months ago by Kristen Morse
This is a wonderful book. It has interesting characters, a great story and unbeatable prose. I recommend it highly.Published on Aug. 23 2003 by Robert G
This lightweight tale is as somewhat, how should we say, "Restrained" as it's lead character; all characters are lacking in detail and intensity as it's story line is. Read morePublished on July 4 2003 by GRIZZLY
THis is not a hard science book but it is great. It is very original and suprisingly funny and frank. I have never enjoyed a science fiction book as I did this one. Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2003 by Fizzle
This book was compelling and very well written.
I think Gardner has the right blend of depth of characters and plot to keep things moving along at a good pace and his novels... Read more
I loved this story about a future in which the expolorers are all slightly deformed, so that they won't be missed when they die. A ridiculous premise, of course! Read morePublished on Nov. 15 2002 by Amazon Customer
... I do find the idea of whether the League would not figure out the "non-sentient" practice of dumping off people on a hostile planet to get rid of them a bit "off" (if they even... Read morePublished on July 15 2002 by dandeliondreamer
It's been scientifically proven that attractive people have more advantages than unattractive people. By that, I mean more superficial advantages. Read morePublished on June 25 2002 by Sesho
James Alan Gardner's EXPENDABLE is a full-bodied SF tale set in a somewhat mysterious but fully developed universe. Read morePublished on June 20 2002 by Vincent Miskell