Space operas take readers far from Earth with stories about alien cultures and battles between good and evil. But while usually set in distant galaxies in the far flung future or past, they inevitably tell us, like any good science fiction, about our lives today.
Ginger Smith’s debut The Rush's Edge (Angry Robot, 2020) takes place when humanity is spread across the galaxy and soldiers are born in labs, but it touches on subjects we grapple with now: blind loyalty to authority, the ethics of genetic science, and the prejudices that divide humans.
Halvor Cullen is a VAT—a member of the genetically engineered Vanguard Assault Troops who are programmed to be loyal to their commander and addicted to the rush of battle. VATs are released from duty after seven years of service, but their bodies burn out quickly, and they die young. But it’s when they’re released from duty that things get interesting. How does a person programmed to be a soldier find purpose or meaningful relationships when they’re no longer a soldier?
“VATs don’t get the chance to have a family or friends or the kinds of experiences we all take for granted,” Smith says. “Hal is learning a lot about what it means to be a human during this story. He knows about fighting but he doesn’t understand love, he doesn’t understand the difference between blind loyalty and the loyalty that people earn.”
Smith wrote The Rush’s Edge in a response to a challenge from her husband. “I’d played around in fanfic, and my husband said, ‘you’ve got to write something original.’ I said, ‘Fine, I’ll write you a book.’”