Jiao Tu’s Endeavour represents my inaugural voyage into the sword and planet subgenre of science fiction/fantasy, and what an effective introduction it was. Presented as a heroic adventure story, the titular hero must embark on a dangerous mission into the bowels of the massive “world ship” that acts as his home. This massive colony ship, stewarded by uplifted animal servitors as it makes its way toward a habitable world slated for colonization, has gone off course. With the way lost, myths and legends arise about the cause of the stellar drift, and trickle down through generations. Against this backdrop, our hero must descend into the Below, an irradiated industrial hellscape that an innocent girl has been spirited away to after her abduction. On his journey to recover her and return her to her family and her home, Jiao Tu encounters friends, adversaries, and enigmatic figures that could be either, all in gallant service of a higher moral good.
I would almost liken this story to the works of Brian Jacques, wherein anthropomorphized animals compose the primary cast, and hints of their nature are revealed by their bestial nature. In this instance, an evener hand is applied, and for it, the cast feels more clearly defined. The story, setting, and narrative elements all cohere into an experience that is at times grim, but ultimately optimistic and uplifting. I give this novel a strong recommendation. For a more detailed review as to why, please have a look at the full review on my SubStack.