Member Reviews

Archipelago tells of the struggles of a set of worlds with a different mindset from your average commercial, economics-driven society. After decades of isolation, they think it may be time to ‘come out’, The politics of this are not easy, especially with the political shenanigans the other major players insist on.

The author has a wonderful way with words. The details of their inventive technologies, of the terraformed worlds, the feeling of stepping through a portal into …nothingness. All beautifully presented, inviting the reader to relax and enjoy the journey. Join Ren in conversations and discussions with his hosts about their different ethical backgrounds and their resulting priorities. Watch them bristle at every criticism, and flare up at every historical slight, real or imagined. And all the time the reader is already aware of double dealing, plans already afoot by the other comities to take back Archipelago by force.

I got bored by the interminable discussion. The plot was becoming pretty obvious, and I had not found any of the protagonists worth caring about to see who won out. It took so long to make its point, and it got somewhat repetitive. Yes, there may be twists, it may be a parable relevant to Earth societies, but I’m reading for enjoyment, and this one just got me irritated.

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This is a sci-fi book, but its focus is far more on philosophy and politics, which is fine, but not what I was expecting based on the book’s blurb and summary. In this story, Ren is sent as part of a diplomatic survey to a group of planets called the Archipelago (Arc), who have been cut off from the rest of humanity for fifty years until they recently opened their gateways and began communication again. Nobody knows what the Arc’s goals are, and Ren must decide if they are a threat to the Core Federation of Planets where he is from.

For the pros, the world building was stellar. The descriptions of the different planets and habitats were all stunning and detailed; I felt like I was really there. There were a lot of good philosophical ideas that were brought up by the characters regarding governance, individuality, and how they relate to one another. I also liked how the Arc wasn’t described as a pure utopia and the planetary leagues aren’t described as dystopian nightmares, or vice versa. Each had their flaws and could learn things from the other. The universe is solidly built and I could see several more good stories taking place within it.

However, for the cons: This book was incredibly slow. While I did enjoy the world building, it sometimes felt as though too much time was spent on that and not enough time on the conflicts or the characters. It was sometimes difficult to keep my interest because a third of the book was just detailing the planet’s flora, agriculture and water systems. There was very little actual conflict or plot until the last quarter of the book.

The characters all felt exactly the same to me; absolutely none of them stood out at all, For example, one of the characters sent to the Arc, Imiko, was described as friendly and always speaking her mind, while another, Kani, was described as stoic and rigid, always keeping control of what came out of his mouth. However… their dialogue was exactly the same. Everyone in this book is snarky and sarcastic, constantly challenging everyone else’s viewpoints and making quippy comments usually disguised in a friendly tone. All of the visitors to the Arc are interchangeable in this way, and with maybe the exception of Oso-Rae, all of the Arc leaders are interchangeable as well. Also, I feel like nobody actually talks like these people in real-life interactions, especially not those who would be the leaders of whole planetary federations. The dialogue wasn’t believable to me at all.

Overall, while I think some aspects of this book could be improved, it was an enjoyable and thought provoking story, and I would probably read more stories taking place in this universe. 3/5 stars.

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Wasn't sure how to feel about this book at first. There is a lot of information about the various worlds and groups, and a lot of politics and technical terms to try and take in. It can make it a little difficult to enjoy as you need to read everything carefully to fully understand it. It's not a book you can just switch off and read in autopilot mode.

That being said, the story did get interesting, and I do find myself wanting a follow up, to see what happens next. I would recommend this to people who like a bit more of an intelligent SciFi novel than usual, and it helps if you are in to books with lots of political machinations.

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First thing I have to say is this novel is gratuitously detailed. I in no way mean that scornfully. The level of immersive language, and minutely refined details brought me into the world. I can taste and smell the planets. I could feel the weather. I loved every second of it. The author kept a true passion for details and embellishment throughout the story to the very end. It was mesmerizing, a beautifully crafted piece that kept me intrigued until the very end. I could identify with the main character on such a personal level. I felt like he was my best friend and I was along for the ride. I’m adding this author to my following list, I can’t wait to read the upcoming works. It was kept modern, and yet still harkened to classical literature. I don’t think I can praise this story enough.

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Pretty interesting story with solid writing. This author has a good imagination and puts it to good use here. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. Recommended.

I really appreciate the free copy for review!!

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Ultimately, Archipelago plays with some interesting ideas, but is let down by its relentlessly slow pacing. The worldbuilding was extensive in one particular area, dedicating almost 2/3rds of the book to it, without offering any real payoff. We don't use this knowledge to understand the society's decisions in the climax, and negative aspects hinted at but never fully addressed or explored. At least 1/3rd of the book could have been cut out by a strong editor, possibly more.

That said, it's competently written. Characters' motivations felt believable and there are no mustache-twirling villains in sight. The world feels lived-in, despite the heavy exposition required, and our PoV character is sympathetic and understandable. That said, I was glad when it was finally over.

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This is an exquisitely crafted universe, but almost at the detriment of the story. In each location that this book takes place, the description is highly detailed, and helps to create a fully realised world. When contrasted with that, the plot feels too simple - there are easy solutions, and no real sense of jeopardy in the book.

The concept of the Arc, and the world they have created there is great, and I love the gateways. This book has provided a foundational universe that could and should be explored in future books.

The writing is good-quality, but very descriptive, and at times the description is too long, and starts to make the reader lose interest.

That said, if you are looking for a low-stakes sci-fi that takes place in a truly well thought-out world, Archipelgao may be exactly what you are looking for.

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Atlas Shrugged meets Mao’s little red book. This mess of a political treatise on the roles of government is poorly written and spends more time on world building than building compelling characters. This reads more like the discussion between college freshmen than some deep text.

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Archipelago by HR Hawkins is perfect if you are looking for a philosophical read in a sci-fi setting. The story is full of rich descriptions and in depth world building with a verbose intellectual writing style.

The story starts with a message from The Archipelago, a group of planets that has been cut off for the past 50 years, inviting a small contingent of people to visit and open discussions.

The goals of the Arc are unclear, and it’s Ren’s job to figure out who they really are and their true motivations. He travels with a team whose members he doesn’t trust while evaluating if the Arc, or his comrades, pose any threat to the Core.

The bulk of the book is a tour of the Archipelago where Ren has many dialogs with his guides. Ren typically represents a capitalistic view point, his guides an environmentalist view point, they discuss technology, free will, communities, education and other topics. There are also internal dialogs within Ren as he questions what he knows and where he draws the line. As we travel with him he seems to shift from a capitalist perspective to a humanitarian one.

There are, of course, some secret plots and intrigue along the way.

Someone who enjoys a slow read, armchair philosophy, and deep rich descriptions may enjoy this book, however it wasn’t for me. I found myself more frustrated than drawn in most of the time.
The author Henry Hawking built a beautiful intriguing world. I wish he had danced in his own playground a bit instead of just following the plot. Overall I felt stuck on the sidelines like I was looking at photos of someone’s vacation. Never truly able to connect. I longed for the characters to interact with the world, culture and technology more instead of just viewing it.

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I'm going to try not to damn with faint praise here, but I really liked Archipelago. Its problem, in a world of novels of universe-destroying threats in big galactic sci-fi is that its story of intergalactic intrigue between future colonies is - for something involving intergalactic colonies and fifty light years of travel - rather small scale. Its the future of humanity which have developed gateways: intergalactic portals with which instantaneous transport can be made across interstellar distances. All you need is to get the other end of the portal to where you want to go. couple that outlay with the huge expense of terraforming planets at the other end, and humanity is playing a long game, with the big pockets in two or three capitalist players: here the Core Planets, the Old Worlds and the Hanseatic League. The Archipelago is a bunch of planets out on the galactic rim, fifty light years fro their nearest neighbour, which fifty years ago withdrew contact tot he rest of humanity, closing their end of the gate and leaving some of those corporations with unpaid off investments. As ever in books like this, capitalism doesn't forget.

The fifty (light) years is important of course, because the Archipelago have remade contact, and have asked for a delegation from the major powers to come and see what they have done. Our protagonist, Ren, is a troubleshooter for the Core Planets, who goes along to discover a political system in harmony with all creatures, but potentially small t totalitarianism. What follows is a mixture of 18th century philosophy about governance, and political intrigue as the other powers try to influence, and potentially get a return back on their investment. On top of this the Archipelago has a secret,,,

The secret was eminently guessable, and want quite as epoch-changing as I expected it might be. And the political and military shenanigans happen largely off-screen. What we get most of is a run-through of these philosophies implemented - from Rousseau to Spinoza, perhaps scratching a modern itch that sees the inherent flaws in current forms of democracy. Hawkins is open about the flaws in the society he has invented and offers some interesting counters which didn't quite convince me, but then the alternative in the book is also hyper-capitalism which is also not ideal. Of course Hawkins is in control of all of that, it is fiction, though there is something in a more broadly custodian of nature ecological viewpoint which seems more appropriate for the here and now rather than a terraforming galactic colonisation which is by design smashing up planets. All of which to say that Archipelago isn't flashy, but it does end up being quite compelling, and well-paced for a done-in-one.

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For science fiction fans only, I think. And for them/us it's heavy on detailed world building which may or may not seem excessive but would be a good start for a series. You can try it on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

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I tried several times over the last month-ish to read this, but I can't get into it. There is SO MUCH world-building that I just don't think my brain can handle it right now. HR Hawkins is a talented writer, but this one is just way too much for me right now. I enjoyed how he wrote and I've seen other positive reviews, but I've also seen others like mine where it's perceived as very overwhelming to start out with.

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'Archipelago' is simply put a story about a conflict between several planetary clusters that regain contact after fifty years of silence from one of them.

It takes a long while before the story goes anywhere. Although the society is not that complicated, it is described with an overload of details. The book kicks off at Ren Markov’s home, a cluster of planets called Core. And it’s described extensively. Now that another of those clusters, called the Archipelago or the Arc, seeks contact again after fifty years of silence, a first diplomatic mission is set-up, with seasoned diplomat Ren as mission lead. When arriving at the Arc, the diplomats get an elaborate tour through several of the cluster’s planets, guided by Oso-Rae. Each planet is different and ‑‑again‑‑ described extensively. Next to that, Ren and Oso-Rae engage in many debates about cultural and social differences between the Arc and the other clusters, and the goods and bads of each. Two thirds along the way, not much else has happened.

There is an intrigue, because members of the two other clusters participating to the diplomatic mission have less peaceful plans. They plan a so-called insertion, a military mission to take over the Arc. Ren finds out about it and is determined to undermine that plan. Fun, interesting too, but that part doesn’t get the attention the world building gets. The conflicts related to that are remarkably easily dealt with. Although nothing about this book is bad or badly written (the contrary is definitely true), I would have liked a more balanced equilibrium between the world building (lowered down to what the reader really needs to know) and the actual core story (more of it, less easy solutions).

So much world building has been done here, and it would be a shame if that was done for this one book alone. Hawkins has actually prepared an entire universe, in which many more things can happen. I’d like that, because the background of it all is solid and interesting to read about. But next time, I’d prefer events to occur sooner. I'd like there to be some world building left for my own imagination.

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I read this book over three days and noticed that it took a long time to get to the main plot. I do think this is a product of many hard sci fi books, where there is a certain amount of time that is needed to world build, so I wouldn’t put this against the book and I strongly recommend powering through the first chunk because it is 100% worth your time. Around the 40% point is where it gets super interesting. I can tell that a lot of extensive research was done to world build and to explore many themes of humanity, society, psychology, and human pre history and it adds to the quality of this work. I thoroughly enjoyed that discussions of migration and human identity were interspersed with the build of the main action. I did feel like the main character was a little loosely defined and held many basic “sci fi main character” traits but the ending did make it seem that the author has other plans for maybe more works (or a series perhaps) so I am interested how these characters grow and how their relationships develop. Overall, I enjoyed this book and it was a very unique take on planetary/ interstellar conflict and I’m definitely excited to see where this author goes!
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An interesting sci-fi diplomatic and intrigue story. It kinda reminds me of CJ Cherryh’s Downbelow Station and the more diplomatic Miles Vorkosign books.

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