Being that I enjoyed the Earther books of the Wars series from Grail Quest Books so much, I decided to download and read the Gongen books to see how they fare. And I must say, though very different and slower paced than the Earther books, they fared quite well indeed.
The Great Journey by: Sean P. Williams
In the first book, we are introduced to two primary characters, Higen Shijin and his descendent, Higen Orochito. These two characters are separated by over three hundred years, with Shijin’s story being told beginning on Earth in 2069 and Orochito’s on Gongen in 2388. There are however, many common elements to their two lives. Both men are driven in their work, driven so much that their work conflicts with their families. They also rightly see their work as being important to the future of their people. The biggest common thread though is the massive Artificial Intelligence known as Shocho, which we also met briefly in the Earther books. In The Great Journey we learn that Shijin developed Shocho as a means of controlling the power grid across all of Asia and presumably the world at some point. As one can imagine, this is a task that becomes life consuming as unexpected problems arise and the system expands and changes faster than he can understand it. Orochito, is also trying to understand Shocho, which now basically controls the government of Gongen. There is a human government as well but it doesn’t take long to realize that Shocho is more than capable of operating independently of it. In fact, it is these independent operations that attract Orochito’s attention as he notices certain anomalies in Shocho’s resource management, anomalies that were also hinted at in the second Earther book. His subsequent investigation soon disrupts Orochito’s life as a simple computer tech, involving him in political intrigue at the highest levels and culminating in Shocho finally revealing to him at least part of what it has been up to. Both men also undergo something of an unexpected and sorrowful journey by the book’s end altering their own courses and that of their entire people as well.
This episode provides a glimpse of the darker side of Gongen honor as Orochito is blamed for the loss of the ships and subsequently threatened with execution if he fails to recover them. Unlike Rogan Hallard in the Earther books, Orochito does not seem to question any of this and even seems to agree that his punishment is deserved. That doesn’t mean that he’s a robot however. In fact, he earns criticism (and praise) from various people for his creative thinking, especially on the battlefield. Along the way we learn more of Shocho’s plans for the war, the human government’s growing suspicion of their AI, and the fact that Orochito has an important role to play, a role that the end of the book makes clear will have him in the middle of the coming war.