In the 25th century, under the leadership of the League of Peoples, war and crime are a thing of the past and life is held sacred. That is, as long as you’re healthy and beautiful. But those who are deformed, flawed or misfit in any way are destined – or is “doomed” a better word? – to become Explorers, crews assigned to probe worlds so hostile, the chances of returning are somewhere between slim and none.
In Expendable, the first volume of James Alan Gardner’s “League of Peoples” science fiction series, Festina Ramos is assigned to escort an unstable admiral to planet Melaquin. Little is known about Melaquin, for every explorer who’s landed there has disappeared. It’s come to be known as the “planet of no return,” and the High Council has made a habit of sending troublesome admirals there in an attempt to get rid of them. It’s clear that this is intended to be Ramos’ last mission, but she doesn’t plan on dying, no matter how expendable she may be.
One Amazon customer writes:
SF is an excellent vehicle to explore aspects of our human nature or of human society. Expendable examines the definition of “humanness”, the nature of bigotry, and the underpinnings of official corruption. The author creates a future in which people with appropriate physical defects are denied available medical care, and become second class citizens assigned to unpleasant and ultimately dangerous work as Explorers in the human interstellar fleet. Explorers make first contact with aliens and sometimes fall victim to injury or death due to misunderstandings. Because Explorers are physically unattractive, other members of the interstellar fleet can accept death or injury of these people (or almost people, in their eyes) more easily. A dark secret is that the Admiralty uses an apparently hospitable planet as a dumping ground for undesirables, since for unknown reasons, no one apparently survives or returns.
For all eight volumes of James Alan Gardner’s unique “League of Peoples” series, visit his author page.