Revolt and Rebirth
Revolt and Rebirth. Jefferson P.
Original Publication: 1988
Current Availability: Uncertain
Editor’s Note: This review originally appeared on RPG.Net in April of 2010, and is reprinted here and in the April 2012 issue of the downloadable magazine with the author’s permission.
Author’s Note: I think that one of the best ways to prepare yourself to run a game is to immerse yourself in its fiction, and thus get a real sense of its milieu. Thus, this series of reviews, which looks at some of the fiction that influenced Traveller, was influenced by Traveller, or is actually set in the Traveller universe.
Twenty years ago, Jefferson P. Swycaffer wrote a series of seven books set in his Traveller-esque universe, The Concordat of Archive.
This nineteenth review covers the last of the Concordat books, Revolt and Rebirth.
About the Story
Revolt and Rebirth is any many ways a capstone to all seven of the Concordat books.
On the one hand it returns to the characters seen in the first four Concordat books, published by Avon. Though we see members of the Praesidium of Archive, this book focuses on Athalos Steldan, the star of Become the Hunted and a supporting cast in most of the other early Concordat books.
On the other hand it builds upon the historical story laid out in the first two New Infinities books—of the Empire that once ruled and which genetically manipulated its people for slavery. More specifically, the discovery made by the Coinroader in The Empire’s Legacy is what really gets this novel rolling (as do the discoveries made by Stasileus in Voyage of the Planetslayer, though that link is a much more passing one).
Revolt and Rebirth actually features two plot threads, artlessly running in alternate chapters (though the one dovetails nicely into the other at the very end).
The odd chapters center on the story of a girl named Lyra who is a noble of the old Empire and the daughter of the Sultan. We thus see the fall of the old Empire, mainly through her eyes, and experiences the last days of revolt and rebellion on Archive itself.
The even chapters center on the story of the aforementioned Athalos Steldan. He has become convinced that the Concordat is stagnant and that its people are no longer vibrant adventurers; he sets out to change that by creating an opera—using the knowledge of the ancient computer Sophia and the psychology of the Vernae Stasileus—that will manipulate the very fabric of society.
Genre & Style
With the canvas that broad in both the past and the present, it’s clear that Revolt and Rebirth is a space opera, no more or less. Swycaffer certainly approaches a story of this scope in the right way by providing us with a few major characters to focus on, but unfortunately that focus isn’t enough to make the book truly interesting.
My biggest problem is that there’s almost no tension in the story of the revolt; we know how it ends, and Swycaffer does nothing to surprise us. The story of Steldan’s planned rebirth is more interesting, and ultimately what kept me reading, but it also felt like a story that was missing some tension. I think that a fairly simple idea got strung out over too much story.
I did enjoy Revolt and Rebirth, but it was more due to the satisfaction of seeing the universe of Archive so fully described than because of any particular zing in the writing.
I've thus given Revolt and Rebirth a Style rating of “3” and a Substance rating of “4”. It was certainly better than most of Swycaffer’s more “literary” books, published by Avon, and it definitely gave us more depth of back story, but it didn’t hold up to the other, adventure-driven books previously published by New Infinities.
Applicability to Mongoose Traveller
When I wrote about the first two New Infinities books, I lauded them as being great bases for individual Traveller adventures. I can’t say the same here, as this story is both too big and too simple.
However, Steldan’s plot does have intriguing possibilities for a campaign background. Swycaffer envisions a star-spanning empire that doesn’t have an adventuresome spirit. Though the Concordat has particular reasons for that which wouldn’t be applied to the Third Imperium, it’s possible that the central idea could. Certainly, GDW thought the “Golden Age” of Traveller was stagnant and that’s why they spiraled their universe out of control with Rebellion, Hard Times, and eventually The New Era.
So, in Your Traveller Universe, might there be an organization that thinks the Imperium of 1105 is stagant? And might they similarly be trying to recreate its adventurous spirit? I think it’s good food for thought, and one that I’ll be considering for my own Traveller game.
Do you need to read the book to get more than that kernel of an idea, though? Probably not. Overall, Revolt and Rebirth isn’t of a lot of use to a Traveller GM unless he’s considering using the Concordat of Archive in his own campaign.
Though not the best of the Concordat of Archive books, Revolt and Rebirth is a nice capstone for the series, and worth reading if you’ve read the six that came before. It’s probably not that rich in ideas for your own Traveller game, however.