{4.5/5} “There are no medical centers on unexplored planets. Death may come with savage abruptness or the stealthy creep of alien disease. In a society where people expect to ease comfortably out of this world at a ripe old age, the thought of anyone being killed in the prime of life is deeply disturbing. If it happens to someone you know, the effect is devastating. Unless… the person is different. Not like everyone else.”

Festina Ramos is a member of the Explorer Corps, which means she explores new worlds. Along with her partner Yarrun, she’s had many successful missions. Admiral Chee comes aboard their ship in secret and tells them they’re going to Melaquin. Festina has heard of Melaquin — it’s the place they send you when they don’t want you to come back. But Festina is good at what she does — maybe she’ll be the one to survive.

Expendable by James Alan Gardner was published in 1997. It was his first novel, and this is my second time reading it.

It’s well written, interesting, and has a tremendous sense of humour — the closest I can think of is John Scalzi.

In addition to Festina, who shows up in several later books, we’re introduced to Oar — a woman who’s completely transparent, looking like she’s made of glass. Oar is immortal but naive, not knowing a lot about the outside world — she’s happy to join Festina on her mission.

One interesting feature of this universe is that the League of Peoples won’t let you leave your planet if you commit a dangerous non-sentient act — like murder.

Gardner is one of my favourite authors. I’ve read all seven of his science fiction novels — my favourite is Ascending — plus his collection Gravity Wells. He hasn’t published a novel since 2004 but I’m still hoping he’ll return.

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