Lot Beta – Tom Merritt

I came across this book because Tom Merritt is one of the presenters of the Sword and Laser podcast to which I subscribe. More specifically I also follow the S&L group on Goodreads and it was there he posted a link to a book trailer video. I followed the link, was curious… and here we are.

The story of Lot Beta is a space opera set in a part of the universe controlled by a vast mining corporation. The hierarchy of the corporation is interesting in that it is, for the most part, hereditary, especially the senior positions. This is supposed to be because of the way the colonization process took place with people leaving behind their home planets on generation ships. I think there’s another reason as well but maybe I’ll come back to that.

Anyway a senior position opens up on “Sat A” by the death of the previous head of this unit*. Normally of course he would be succeeded by his child but this particular COO did not have one. Or did he?

And so begins a tale of a boy with a hidden past who is suddenly thrust into a position of power by a birth right he didn’t even know he had.

He says in the front matter that this was a NaNoWriMo book. I think that this shows, and not necessarily in a bad way. It’s short and has a big central idea but a lot of the avenues it could have taken aren’t expanded on, especially toward the end. Whether that was because the author was “pulling to the finish line” or simply he didn’t want to major on those parts of the book I’m not sure. What I do know is that a lot of the first half of the book is full of corporate politics and bureaucratic wrangling and power plays. Which may appeal to some but I found I was over it relatively quickly. It was well done I think just not really my thing. How our main character uses the vagaries of the supply trade agreements to assert himself over central control was cleverly worked out but for me, not as interesting as some of the later passages about space battles, mining settlement trouble-shooting and dealing with smuggling issues. In other words the action-heavy versus the talky-heavy sections of the plot were not evenly distributed.

At this point it’s probably appropriate to point out something important about the structure of the book. Which is that it’s based on a well-known myth but set in space. The author himself has mentioned this elsewhere on Goodreads but not in the book description so I feel I’d be spoiling to point out exactly which myth it is. I can see how this idea would be the sort of thing one might come up with for NaNoWriMo. It gives you a ready made plot outline to work to. It did make me think at times though, once I realised just how closely to the source he was sticking, whether he would have done certain things if he hadn’t been following this pattern. A couple of the analogues he found were quite clever {spoiler} but then there were sections I think don’t make sense at all unless you realise what it’s based on {spoiler}

It was fairly enjoyable overall. Short and readable.

6/10 – The legend of … in space!

Oh nearly forgot. The title alludes to something in the book which is a set up for a truly awful pun. {spoiler}

*I was never 100% sure whether a “sat” was an artificial satellite like a space station or a natural one like an asteroid. Plus I think there were planets but whether they had a different designation and how they fit into the corporate structure was unclear, or I simply missed it.
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