Sold as YA, The Ark lives in that territory where adult fiction and YA fiction merge into one. There's no reason why it shouldn't be on the shelves alongside Alastair Reynolds or Ken MacLeod, instead of beside the Harry Potters of this world. Jeapes has written a deeply philosophical novel which explores two key themes: the nature of duty and the nature of obedience. Where does one end and the other begin? How can we stop the slide from duty to blind obedience and then into slavery?
In the mid 22nd century humanity has finally begun to move out into the solar system. There are colonies on Mars, and the asteroids are a vital source of resources. The last remnants of the British royal family are now a spacefaring corporation, running the immense asteroid mining complex UK1. And humanity knows it is not alone - the alien First Breed are here, and they've invited a human delegation to travel with them to a world that they are offering to share with humans. But all is not as it seems - among the humans and among the First Breed. Michael Gilmore has been selected to be the captain of the "Ark Royal", the UK's first starship (as well as nursemaid to the Crown Prince), and when everything starts to go wrong with the interstellar mission it's up to him to find a solution for all humans of all nations - and the First Breed as well,
This is an excellent first novel, it's concise and well written, with plenty of panache. Jeapes has a feel for near future space opera that mixes well drawn characters with action scenes that are well aware of the limitations of the physical universe - even when drawn on the scale of orbital combat.
A good start. It wil be interesting to see where Jeapes takes his career, as YA seems to be too limiting a label for his talents - which deserve much wider exposure.