Spoiler Alert: You’ll need to have read all 3 books in the Korvali Chronicles trilogy to avoid spoilers here.
When you write a trilogy, in some ways you’re writing one “mega novel,” a story that takes place over 3 books. Yet, in some cases, each book can have its own feel, its own unique qualities, and its own themes. In The Korvali Chronicles, The Refugee, The Operative, and The Forbidden Planet each have different themes.
One of the major themes in Book 3 (The Forbidden Planet) is that of family. I didn’t plan it that way… that’s just where the story went. A lot of time is spent on Korvalis, and we see how the Korvali actually live. The Shemal live in villages — one big family, if you will. They stick together and protect one another. Early in the book, when Eshel and Ashan arrived on Korvalis, we see a Korvali baby. The villagers line up to hold the baby and make a big deal out the newborn. Even Eshel vies to get a closer look. The Korvali have a much lower birth rate than do humans, their infants mature quickly and leave the “baby” phase quickly, and, due to their mating and social structure, Korvali males and females share parenting and investment in childrearing. Thus, for these reasons and others, a new life is a big deal on Korvalis.
To some extent, this could be viewed as foreshadowing for how things end. Also, on Korvalis, people often find their mates at a pretty young age and, in Book 2, Ashan questions Eshel’s not having yet mated. Unlike the other characters, who have personal stuff to work through before considering a family, Eshel is probably pretty comfortable with the idea, but simply cannot consider it until he achieves his goal. Ashan, on the other hand, has jettisoned the idea of family, having sustained the terrible loss of his mate, and before they’d reproduced. Ashan was the only one who hung back during the baby scene. Eshel eventually presses him to consider mating again, to which Ashan’s response is “perhaps.” From him, and in that context, I feel I can safely assume that “perhaps” likely means “yes.”
You also see the family theme in terms of the main characters dealing with their parents. Catherine’s father becomes a key character in this film, and we get to see her mother for the first time, if only briefly in a dream. Eshel’s mother is a key member of the vokalis and often by Eshel’s side, and his father (Othniel) also makes a very brief appearance during one of Eshel’s night visions. Not surprisingly, their parents serve as antagonists at times. Othniel was born Shemal, and it’s that affiliation (along with Othniel’s teachings) that give Eshel the “in” with the Shemal and the edge in undergoing their rebellion. And although we never meet them, Tom and Snow’s adoptive parents are mentioned; it’s clear here that neither man grew up with good parental role models. Same with Captain Ferguson, whose scars from her arrogant, abusive scientist father likely played a substantial role in how she treated Eshel.
The main characters also begin to consider their own futures. The mission is coming to an end and each is at an age and a point in their careers where they must choose which road they will take. Tom had already made his choice — he wanted to get promoted to Commander and live his life abroad, with no wife or kids. But then he encounters a variety of unexpected twists and turns that force him to rethink his choice, and to choose based on what he really wants, not what unconscious childhood programming would choose for him. At heart, Tom already is a family man and takes great care of those he loves. He just needed to work through personal demons and rethink what it is to be a parent. It was Maria who got tired of life in space and decided to pursue a family, pushing Tom away as a result, knowing he couldn’t give her what she wanted. Although being rejected by Maria hurt Tom, perhaps she lingered in his heart even after accepting it was over because he knew on some level that he could be what she needed.
Snow also considers his future and admits to Tom that even he might want kids someday. He too had to work through some past demons in order to move beyond an important but dead-end relationship and embrace whatever future feels right to him. And Catherine… she never discussed marriage or kids. She only knows she wants to pursue science. Yet, in her outing with Mahoney when he asks why they split, she reveals that she didn’t see a “future” with him, an admission that surprises him. Even though how she meant that (she knew she couldn’t sustain a relationship with someone she hid so much from) was different than how he took it (she didn’t see herself raising a family with him), in this case she was in denial and he was right on the money. Deep down, even beyond her own awareness, she wanted to be with Eshel. But she knew it was impossible and thus completing the mission would mean her getting to move on with a real science career and, eventually, a new man. Of course, we know how that turned out!