Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Aboard the Starcology Argo 10 034 humans are on a mission to colonize Eta Cephei IV, a planet 47 light years away from Earth. Things go well for the inhabitants, but when Diana Chandler is found dead, Aaron Rossman finds himself on a quest for the truth. He refuses to follow along with everybody else’s suspicions of suicide and is soon uncovering a massive conspiracy.
JASON, the main character of the novel, is the artificial intelligence that controls every aspect of ship life. When Aaron investigates his ex-wife’s death, he discovers that JASON not only controls life, he manipulates it. JASON makes use of all his influence onboard to cover up his tracks, but Aaron follows his own suspicions confronts JASON in one of the most memorable arguments in science fiction.
JASON very quickly becomes a very interesting character. At first it seems as though Sawyer is unable to effectively write in the mindset of an artificial intelligence, a computer, but the reader soon realizes that JASON is not the kind of mindless automaton one would assume him to be. He is a very advanced computer, but he is cold, manipulative, and a trilling antagonist. Lines like “I hate Aaron Rossman’s eyes” prove to us that he does not think like a computer, but instead more like a person. In addition to his ability to control everything on board to Argo starcology, this makes JASON the perfect diabolical genius.
It is hard to believe that this is only Robert Sawyer’s first novel. With a gripping opening and enough action and suspense to force a reader to finish it in one sitting, Golden Fleece easily meets the standards set by even his most recent novels. Sawyer has a talent for leaving just enough evidence early in the book to make the conclusion very satisfying. As with each of his books, the second read is exponentially better simply because the reader can recognize all the tiny, almost insignificant, aspects that lead to the conclusion.
Sawyer’s themes are thought provoking and chillingly effective. Science fiction fan or not, Golden Fleece should be read just for the social statements and very human themes. The main plot alone makes this book deserving of it’s Aurora Award for Best Novel, and the ingenious subplot provides the heart-stopping double conclusion that makes Golden Fleece a must read.