This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue.
Misjump. Mark Long.
Original publication: 2019 (Orchid Imprint)
Current Availability: Trade Paperback, eBook (both Amazon)
It isn’t often that one comes across a book whose story and setting are thoroughly Traveller, while not once mentioning Traveller, the Third Imperium, or indeed anything that explicitly points to the game and setting that Freelance Traveller’s readers know so well. Nevertheless, this is one such, and even if the author hadn’t told me (in email, when he sent me the review copy of the book) that Misjump was intentionally a Traveller novel, it would have been obvious, fairly quickly.
To try to give an overview of the story to the same level as other “Off the Table” reviews would require well over half of the space that this review would end up taking – the story is that complex. It’s not hard to follow, however, and it’s definitely not over-written.
Misjump is written from a third-person-limited viewpoint, with Gregor, the pilot-in-command, being the primary (but not exclusive) viewpoint character. The story is well-paced, and there’s no infodumping or “As you know, Bob”-ing; what information you (as the reader) need to know is presented as part of the story as it evolves.
The story does feel unfinished; it leaves plenty of questions unanswered, there are solutions to problems that feel morally or ethically ambiguous (and perhaps are as bad as the problem, to start with), and you are definitely left wanting to know more about What Happens Next. Nevertheless, it was a good read, with little if any risk of you wanting to put it down out of boredom, or throwing it against the wall (paperback only, please, not your much more delicate e-reader) as offensive to one or another of your Traveller or literary sensibilities. One can earnestly hope that Mr Long is planning on at least one sequel…
Why is it Traveller?
Aside from Mr Long saying it is in his email to me, any long-time member of the Traveller community will recognize any number of Traveller tropes, and will easily place the milieu as being Traveller: The New Era in essence. It’s very much the sort of thing that you might find in a Wilds campaign, and you can perhaps even see the beginnings of a re-expansion from a single system into a multiworld polity.
On the other side of the coin, there are some elements of transhumanism present that are either not present or seriously downplayed in “canonical” New Era Traveller, and some (possibly gratuitous) changes in certain basic assumptions about how the universe works (for example, most of the crew being in low berth for jump). One could also conclude that various Zombie Apocalypse stories influenced this one, but those elements aren’t overdone to the point of wrecking the story or breaking the reader’s suspension of disbelief. None of these are fatal (or even serious) flaws; the story remains quite compatible with the idea of it being a novelization of a Traveller adventure.
At the same time, like Marc Miller’s Agent of the Imperium, you could read it with no previous exposure to Traveller, and not have lost anything thereby.
A good read, worth the price (and available on Kindle Unlimited, if you’re a subscriber).