Le Melkine is an ode to space. Its theme is the link between culture and communication.
This novel recounts the fruits of concerted human expansionism 300 years before. The thinking was that this was the only way forward for the species. Men did not flee from an enemy, they pursued their destiny. Other, much stronger species had become extinct before them, unable to escape the final whistle.
In 2400 of our era, a flotilla of 1643 interstellar ships or vessel-towns, ferried from Lagrangian point to Lagrangian point communities who had undergone cultural conditioning which induced them to forget their past. They could only think of the future.
And when all these ships had finished offloading their passengers from planet to planet, where the first colonies were established, it was decided never to abandon space. A part of each vessel was taken, from hull to passageway, to contribute to the construction of a new ship, a symbol of this united Flotilla and in remembrance of migratory and pre-migratory history: The Melkine.
The Melkine is therefore a school ship 980 metres long, comprising 6 living quarters in the shape of wings opening out when the ship comes into orbit around a planet. About 2000 people live there: 192 teachers and 1624 pupils aged from 13 to 18 years. On this vessel cultural conditioning is questioned and debated in the prospect of a measured evolution of humanity in this respect.
At the end of their schooling, most of the students choose a planet to "cultivate their garden", but they always remain ready to activate the algorithm of the Melkine and to take up the cause of space, if need be.
By means of the characters the first part of this story deals with the importance of education on the Melkine at a crucial moment in the evolution of human expansionism in space. The peopling of the planets through cultural conditioning, a guarantee for peace, is countered by the development of communication frequencies, and one of them, Banquise, has decided to attack conditioning openly and free the populations from the mythic grip of the Melkine.
At the head of Banquise reigns Azurea, the technoprophet. In her vessel, Turandot, Azurea has continually been intercepting the Melkine, only having its radio signal at her disposal. The war that Azurea is fighting against the Melkine originates from the fact that she wasn't allowed to join the ship as a pupil. The girl has since thrown all her weight into her desire for victory.
On the Melkine, we follow a group of young people at the end of their schooling; we will come across them again in subsequent books in their "planetary" lives, one of them naturally enough being the "black sheep" of the band, Ismaël, that the technoprophet encourages to betray the Melkine...