By the end of the 23rd century, humanity has established its first colony outside the solar system, on a planet called Eidolon. The achievement required not only advancements in spacecraft engineering, but also cybernetics, since augmentation was required to make humans capable of deep space flight and living on an alien world larger than Earth. As you can imagine, it takes no time at all for cybernetic implants to become mainstream, with everyone from athletes to high class escorts getting augmented to improve their game. And, just as inevitably, there's a backlash. A political movement calling itself the Pure Light comes to power promising restore humanity to its ‘proper’ state. Augmentation is outlawed, and those deemed more than 50% machine are made the property of the government. Chips are implanted in their brains to make them virtual slaves and they're either used for experimentation, hard labor in the mines of the gas giants, or soldiers used to enforce the Pure Light's power.
The Gilgamesh is the only starship capable of making the five year journey to Earth, and it has been more than 20 years since its last visit. The crew are all heavily augmented and many of them were born and raised on Eidolon. As they wake up from their five year cryogenic hibernation, they have no idea of the political situation that awaits them. Adrian Balfour is the government representative assigned to break the news to the crew that they're all about to be enslaved. In truth, it's the last thing he wants to do, but he has no idea how to save the people he idolized so much as a child he wanted to be one of them.
“More Than Human” is a fast-paced thriller wrapped up in a very interesting parable about bigotry. The Pure Light depicts those with cybernetic implants as somehow less than human, in the same way that Africans and other non-whites were dehumanized in the past to justify slavery. The point is made none too subtly, but without really distracting from the story.
What makes the story so readable are the characters. At the center of everything are Adrian and the Gilgamesh’s second-in-command Jason. The two men from very different worlds are quite believable. Their undeniable attraction to each other is a big part of what propels the plot along. They in turn are surrounded by a rich set of supporting characters, which is unusual in a novel this length, but something you come to expect from this author. If you'd like to sample some of Mel Keegan's science fiction, but don't want to commit to the Hellgate saga, then this is the book for you.
“More Than Human” is available from Amazon.