By Robert Reed (Golden Gryphon Press, $15.95). Grade: A
Nebraska author Robert Reed's Mere is the fourth in Golden Gryphon's series of signed/limited edition, novella-length chapbooks.
For the uninitiated, chapbooks were originally published in Great Britain for the poorer literate classes. The chap apparently comes from cheap, as the coverless books were shorter and printed on less-expensive materials than their hardbacked novel cousins.
The Golden Gryphon versions are anything but poorly produced. Though Mere is a mere 50 pages long, the book features an attractive wraparound illustrated cover and quality paper and typography. What's more, Reed, as usual, tells a great story.
Reed's many novels and short works cover a wide variety of science fiction and mainstream topics. But he is best known for Marrow and the other stories about the Great Ship.
In the distant future, after human beings have learned to live virtually forever, folks are pretty bored. Along comes an abandoned planet-sized spaceship made by some long-forgotten race. The ship is empty, and it is just right to be retrofitted as a luxury liner.
What better way to relieve boredom than a trip around the galaxy: "The human usurpers were simply fulfilling the ship's original intent, steering the big vehicle through a long, lazy voyage, its immortal crew and passengers planning to circumnavigate the Milky Way during the next few hundred millennia."
Mere, the title character, is the daughter of the wealthiest people on a distant colony world. Hearing of the Great Ship, they build a fast space vehicle of their own and race to catch it, hoping for passage on the grand adventure.
A freak accident kills everyone on board. Only the young girl is saved and deposited on an unknown planet. Since the girl is smaller than the inhabitants and seemingly insignificant, they name her their equivalent of the word mere. Later, when they discover that she cannot die and never ages, she becomes their god.
Mere's story covers thousands of generations as the primitive civilization on the planet moves itself into the space age, and the girl finally resumes her journey. Eventually, she will become a central character in Reed's next Great Ship novel. Thus, this lyrical and tightly constructed novella is a central cog in the author's most important series.
If you haven't discovered Robert Reed, Mere can serve as an appetizer for a banquet of great speculative fiction.
— Mark Graham, Rocky Mountain News, February 4, 2005