Book Review, Guest Post, History, Science

Book Review By Seawriter: The Founder Effect

This week’s book review by Ricochet’s Seawriter takes us out of this world and on a journey to other galaxies.  It’s a look at The Founder Effect, a collection of stories by well-known authors with an interesting perspective on how histories and legends grow from man’s initial colonization of a new world.

One day humans may colonize other stellar systems. When they do, those colonies will have their own histories. They will also have their own founding legends. These may be based on history, but branch off into lessons to be taken from the tales. In our world Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Jean Lafitte were historical individuals. Legends about them differ, often radically, from their actual histories.

The Founder Effect, edited by Robert E. Hampson and Sandra L. Medlock, illustrates this. It is a collection of stories about a possible first colonization effort by humans of another stellar system. The stories are less about what happens than about how the happenings create future legends and controversy.

The Founder Effect is more a sequential novel written by different authors than an anthology. Individual episodes are independent, but linked by a common background. Earth sends a colony ship to a distant star known to have at least three Earth-like planets. One planet is within the habitable zone. A second is on the fringes. Ten thousand colonists will be sent by a slower-than-light colony ship. Cryostasis, the ability to put humans into hibernation via cold sleep, is used to allow colonists to make the trip.

The colony ship, Victoria, takes 35 years to complete the trip. Its construction is opposed by the Feffers (Fix Earth First). They believe we cannot leave the solar system until we fix problems on Earth. They resort to sabotage to keep the expedition from leaving, and from succeeding once it leaves for Cistercia, as the target star system is named.

Sixteen prominent and budding science fiction authors produce their take on the venture. Larry Correia contributes a foreword, an essay about legends and history. The other 15 authors contribute stories. The best-known contributors include David Weber, Sarah Hoyt, Jody Lynn Nye, Brad Torgersen, and D. J. Butler.

The stories take place in a range beginning before the launch of Victoria, to centuries after the actual landing. They are divided into three sections. “The Journey” covers the voyage and initial landing. “The Colonists” explores the early years of the colonies. “Paradise Lost” looks at the mature phase of the effort. They are linked by interstitial encyclopedia entries which provide context and background.

The Founder Effect succeeds admirably. It provides sixteen highly entertaining stories about a first and flawed interstellar colonization effort. It also shows how legends grow and why we need them.

“The Founder Effect,” edited by Robert E. Hampson and Sandra L. Medlock, Baen Books, 2020, 736 pages, $16.00 (Trade Paperback), $8.99

*Mark Lardas is an engineer, freelance writer, historian and model-maker living in Texas.  Mark posts on Ricochet as “Seawriter,” and is well-known for his regular and much appreciated reviews of books on all subjects.  Of his reviews, he says “I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review.”  His website is

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