Expendable – James Alan Gardner

Expendable - James Alan Gardner

Expendable - James Alan Gardner


Festina Ramos is an Explorer - one of humanity's mildly imperfect expendables. And she's been sent to accompany an aged admiral on what promises to be a one way trip that nonetheless somehow sidesteps the League of Peoples' prohibition on murder and other non-sentient acts.


Expendable was my introduction to James Alan Gardner, and the League of Peoples series is still the bulk of his writing that I’ve read (and seems to be the bulk of his long fiction). I was immediately engaged by Festina Ramos, and followed the rest of the series faithfully to the end.

The premise is intriguing – imperfect people deliberately left imperfect in order to create a corps of people no one will miss that much: expendables. The imperfections are mild – science can and does cure more serious problems – but Gardner builds an interesting world and system on top of it, anchored by Festina’s own views and struggle. This is relatively light reading, so there’s not as much focus on an initial trauma as you might expect, and the ending wraps up a bit easily, but it’s fun and engaging nonetheless.

Festina aside, the characterization is a bit on the thin side – we don’t get to know anyone else very well – but it’s offset by an intriguing larger universe and the near-omniscient League of Peoples that stays largely in the background in this book. Not perfect, but fun, easy reading.

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