Epeolatry Book Review: Unexploded Remnants by Elaine Gallagher


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Title: Unexploded Remnants
Author: Elaine Gallagher
Genre: Sci-fi, Sci-fi Adventure
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publication Date: 25th June, 2024

Synopsis: An A.I. wages war on a future it doesn’t understand.
Alice is the last human. Street-smart and bad-ass.
After discovering what appears to be an A.I. personality in an antique data core, Alice decides to locate its home somewhere in the stargate network. At the very least, she wants to lay him to rest because, as it turns out, she’s stumbled upon the sentient control unit of a deadly ancient weapon system.
Convincing the ghost of a raging warrior that the war is over is about as hard as it sounds, which is to say, it’s near-impossible. But, if Alice fails and the control unit falls into the wrong hands, the balance of power her side of the Milky Way could fall apart. As Alice ports throughout the known universe seeking answers and aid she will be faced with impossible choice after impossible choice and the growing might of an unstoppable foe.

Happy Summer, Readers! I trust by this point most of you have figured out summer plans and trips and are looking forward to a break. I just got back from a trip myself and brought along a book for the occasion. Let’s dive in and see how this one faired.

Unexploded Remnants is a Sci-Fi novella by Elaine Gallagher. The reader is introduced to Alice, known to the reader as the last human from Earth. Alice has been free of Earth’s bounds for an undisclosed amount of time. Judging by the context in the story, it’s been close to a millennium since the Earth was destroyed by none other than Earth’s people. Gifted with immortality by the organization known as The Archive of Jael Sennash, Alice is a free agent around the galaxy. With The Archive as her main benefactor, Alice trades in information the same way merchants trade in goods.

While wandering in one of the many market places, Alice comes across a strange item that reminds her of a lava lamp. From here, Alice must avoid all manner of mercenaries looking to relieve her of her find. 

Building an entire universe is no easy task and Gallagher does a great job creating mood and atmosphere in many different settings. Often lacking is what makes these locations unique from each other. The universe uses a system of transportation known as gates. They transport a person to new locations on different planets instantly. Eventually, travelling becomes so frequent that there is little time to invest in the new setting because the characters won’t be there long. 

The novella is only 102 pages, and with the expanse of information that a universe can store, it stands to reason that a story of this length would hold back all but the most important information. Well, that’s not the case here. In the first three pages alone, the reader is informed of alien races like the Tarican, Saligan, Delf, Xue, and Delosi. Some of these species will be relevant to the story, but others never get mentioned again. Often, it’s the most important questions that go unanswered (“These characters have known each other for centuries? How did they meet?”) in lieu of extensive dialogue with the newest character.

Where the sacrificial writing really hurts this story is with the lead character, Alice. Alice is a complex character who has lived for several centuries. She has great Earthly quirks that make her character fun. Her personal data computer is called Bugs as a reference to Bugs Bunny from Looney Toons. Alice and Bugs engage in great dialogue, making classic wisecracks, and the author assumes the reader has a good deal of background on the old cartoon. If the galaxy didn’t know about Earth, then only Alice could have created Bugs. So, why choose this character as Alice’s computer personality? It’s character development like this that is lost.

Alice is transgender. She started life as Andrew before stumbling into a gateway on Earth. The Archive was able to create a new, female body for Andrew and allowed her to become Alice. This is a huge moment of character understanding, and the process is summed up in three pages, then never mentioned again. This, in addition to the numerous relationships Alice discloses, is why the novella could easily have been twice as long.

Regardless of the novella’s faults, so much was right that it shows Gallagher has enough material for a novel. The fight scenes and battles are well thought-out. Major dialogues between Alice and the AI read like real conversations. I hope Alice gets a second story for nothing more than to get to know her better.

If you are a fan of Sci-Fi adventures, I highly recommend Unexploded Remnants by Elaine Gallagher.


Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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