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Archipelago: The Story



Archipelago is a story of intrigue between interplanetary leagues set in a distant future. The many planets within these leagues are joined together by a blend of proximity, common interests, political alignment, trade and the the struggle for power. They are connected by gateways, instantaneous portals between planets. These are put in place slowly using relativistic travel between the stars, thus limiting the sphere of colonisation.


The story focuses on two of these leagues, the Core Planets Federation or 'Core' (a deliberately bureaucratic name), and The Archipelago or 'the Arc', an idealistic and radical ecological sect where most of the action takes place. Two other leagues influence events: the Hanseatic League and the Old Planets, both group of traders and trans-planetary corporates more focussed on profit than idealism.


Our protagonist Ren is a jaded veteran agent/diplomat representing Core foreign affairs. He is sent into The Arc on a mission to re-establish relations after fifty years of self-isolation. Both Core and the Hanseatic League resent being cut off, in part because they want control and also because of embedded economic interests. The Arc went into isolation after a coup which put an end to historic Machiavellian plotting of other leagues. Core sought (and continues to seek) ubiquitous, standardised political systems and saw The Arc as a grave threat to that goal.


A second key character is Oso-Rae, Ren's counterpart in The Arc. It is through her that we learn about The Arc's peculiar society and ways. She and Ren explore their differing world views through a series of sparring conversations.


The Arc is notable for two key things. One is that they are ecological obsessives, completely focused on the living world. Two of their planets are idyllic, immaculate examples of terraforming and both teem with life and biodiversity. The second is their deeply strange socio-political system, which is gradually revealed.


The purpose of the book is to showcase a highly alternate society but strictly avoiding either a utopian or dystopian vision. The reader should be drawn in to the beauty of The Arc but should also feel conflicted about their ethics and peculiar world view. The question of whether it is totalitarian is never really answered, but it should feel like a festering flaw at the heart. The reader should feel conflicted, as is Ren.

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