The Unincorporated Woman
Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin
You’ve probably at least heard of Dani and Eyton Kollins’ sci-fi duology (now trilogy): The Unincorporated Man and its sequel The Unincorporated War have been…somewhat polarising, let’s say. That’s perhaps not too surprising, given that virtually every description of the books you’re likely to find online feature the phrase “a SF version of The Fountainhead” at least once. Having not read either of the first two, I went into The Unincorporated Woman with some justified trepidation; overly-political science fiction tends to be fairly painful unless you happen to share the author’s views, after all, and I’m not what you’d call a devout Ayn Rand fan.
So you can imagine my surprise to find that the book has quite a few things I can get on board with. The central premise of the entire series – that in the far future, people are incorporated at birth and must buy shares of themselves to be truly free – is intriguing, if rather overtly designed to set up political allegory. (Would you be surprised to learn that ‘the unincorporated man” is a billionaire entrepreneur from the 21st century, revived in the future to lead a new revolution in personal freedom? Neither was I!) But look past that, and you’ll find some genuinely clever world-building. As space opera, The Unincorporated Woman is unusual in that it’s set within our solar system. The obvious choices for colonisation are brought up, but so are various lesser-known moons, Ceres and the other dwarf planets, and even the Oort Cloud. There’s a feeling of cohesion to the whole thing, something that’s often lacking in stories of this kind.
The characters are less imaginative than the world they occupy. There’s a bewildering number of them, for one thing, and after a while they all start to run into each other – is this the fleet admiral working for the good guys, or the all-too-similar fleet admiral working for the bad guys? Thankfully, the most important characters are also the most interesting, starting with the titular “unincorporated woman” herself.
Like her male counterpart, Sandra O’Toole is revived after a hibernation period of several centuries. In her case, however, the initial freezing process was precipitated by her late-stage Alzheimer’s – thus, she wakes up to find herself reborn both physically and mentally. It’s a fascinating concept, of the kind that you don’t often get in more action-oriented SF, and I’m glad that the Kollin brothers decided to do it justice.
Sandra acts as an anchor point for the reader, a human and endearing character to focus on in the midst of the sometimes-confusing political machinations that make up the bulk of the novel’s plot. Topics as diverse as religion (in the form of a Jewish asteroid colony) and artificial intelligence are dealt with here as well, but in most cases they serve the larger goal of forwarding the series’ political agenda.
Having said that, I was pleasantly surprise by The Unincorporated Woman despite my early misgivings. Ayn Rand fans will obviously want to pick it up, but anyone with an appreciation for smart world-building and more down-to-Earth space opera (if you’ll excuse the oxymoron) should find something to like here.