The Last Day of Captain Lincoln
by Exo Books
Captain Lincoln is the retired commander of a highly advanced space ship slowly making its way towards a new planet. It’s a journey which will take generations, and the crew are custodians for the vessel and the advanced AI which runs it.
There is a problem, however. The ship has a fixed population and a finite amount of resources. Every five years a new batch of eight babies are born and as a consequence, the eight oldest members of the ship have to die. Today is everyone’s birthday, and the last day of Captain Lincoln’s life.
As far as the plot goes, that’s pretty much it. Those just wanting a thrill-a-minute ride may want to look elsewhere, but if you are willing to give it a chance, Captain Lincoln is well worth reading. Here, the focus is about emotion, memories and the realisation about one’s own mortality. Lincoln is not battling an alien race or enemy within; here the antagonist, and thus the source of conflict, is time.
Life aboard the ship is a utopian one; the crew want for nothing, everyone gets on with everyone else, and everyone has a generous and healthy lifespan of eighty years. There is no disease, injury (not sure if anyone has ever died due to an accident as this isn’t mentioned) and no jealously over sexual partners. People still fall in love, of course, and the relationship between Lincoln and his partner Helen helps form the central spine of the story.
The workings of the ship, crew and society are used as a backdrop to the central drama and are explored as Lincoln goes on one last tour, each chapter centring on a particular location and theme. One example of this is the ship’s school. The children are taught by interacting only with other humans until they are five, after which point they are gradually introduced to the ship’s network through computer implants (an observation on today’s children being plugged into iPads etc as soon as they can crawl) and begin to work when they are ten. Life and death are rationalised and considered part of the natural path of molecules in the Universe. This reminded me somewhat of a speech Delenn gives Sheridan in Babylon 5, and anything that reminds me of Babylon 5 is always more than welcome!
The tour Lincoln takes offers the opportunity to explore his thoughts and emotions as he progresses towards the inevitable. In addition to dealing with the concepts of depression and philosophical musings of what it is to die, there are also the practical concerns like how do you explain death to a young child and get them to understand? All of these concepts come to a head as the story progresses. There is a very moving scene where the reality of the situation for Lincoln really hits home, which is followed by an equally heart-breaking one at a leaving party as the story moves to its poignant conclusion.
Captain Lincoln is a novella rather than a full novel so doesn’t stretch the premise out for too long or outstay its welcome. That said, there is one scene with a long speech about the history of peppers I could have personally lived without, as it took away the focus of the central character. That’s just a minor quibble though. The only other negative is that I found the opening scene’s use of changing tense very confusing. This is deliberate and makes perfect sense by the end of the scene, but I would hate for anyone to instantly give up on the book because of it.
The themes of the story have stuck with me since finishing it and writing this review a few days later, as it offers plenty to think about. For this reason alone, I’d definitely recommend The last day of Captain Lincoln.
Rating: 4 / 5
Disclaimer and disclosure. This book was bought by me from Amazon.co.uk through BooksGoSocial.com. All opinions are my own, and I am receiving no payment for the review, either by financial or review-swap means.