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The Wagner Incident

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2021 issue.

The Wagner Incident. Matthew Kerwin.
Original publication: 2021 (Arcanic Fortress Publishing)
Current availability: print and ebook

The Wagner Incident is a Traveller novel written by Matthew Kerwin and approved by Marc Miller. It’s an action/adventure drama with a split story viewpoint. One depicts Hugo, a citizen of Wagner swept up into the conflict as a tank commander. The other is Lt. Walker, the marine commander of a unit left on the rift-isolated world to protect the Imperial ambassador. They both find themselves immersed in the war between the human colonists and the (considerably earlier) Droyne colonists. However, their paths both intersect with a family of outcast Droyne who feel they have been led by the Coyns to stop the war. They have to wrestle with their feelings of duty, the orders they have been given, and their feelings of humanity for the pain and suffering of the combatants, and the chance that the mystical portents are more than mumbo-jumbo, and there is something they can do about it.

I came to this novel not expecting much more than fan fiction; a loving tribute to a setting I have spent much of my own time and energy in. However, Kerwin went much further than that. There are plenty of references that Traveller fans will recognize and appreciate, but none are so overt as to detract from the story. 

The story itself I found quite compelling. Originally, I figured I would read a few chapters a day over a week or two, but three chapters in I was invested in the main characters, their ambitions, and the unfolding drama. I finished the whole thing in just under three days, putting off other projects to do so!

The writing and characterization are surprisingly professional for a first novel. I also was pleased to see the presentation of differently abled people as main characters, which is not something you see that often in a story of this sort. The Droyne came off a little flat, and it would have been interesting to see a point-of-view chapter from the alien’s perspective. But I can appreciate the technical difficulty of doing that, as each of their six genders has a different perspective, and going as deeply as he did into the main characters.

Any Traveller fan will certainly enjoy this novel. The appendices of “library data” at the end will be of particular interest if you wish to use it as inspiration for your actual game play. This is not a scenario or game supplement. But it can add character and color to your understanding of the game. The climactic confrontation towards the end of the novel was almost built for Striker and it would be really interesting to see someone write it up as a mini-scenario!

I also think those who enjoy action/adventure science fiction will equally find this a pleasant read. Indeed, the story can act as an introduction to the Traveller universe and setting for those who are new or interested in it.

Overall, I found the book an excellent way to spend several hours and I think most people will too. I look forward to future works by the author!