Jason Burke was a man hiding from himself in a small cabin high in the American Rocky Mountains when his simple, quiet life was shattered one night by what he first assumed was an aviation mishap. But when he investigates the crash, what he finds will yank him out of his self-imposed exile and thrust him into a world he could have never imagined. He suddenly finds himself trapped on a damaged alien spacecraft and plunged into a universe of interstellar crime lords and government conspiracies, along the way meeting strange new friends… and enemies. As he struggles to find his way back home he is inexorably drawn deeper into a world where one misstep could mean his death. Or worse. He desperately wants to get back to Earth, but it may be the end for him...or is it just the beginning?
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Again I am taken aback by the level of fawning reviews a book lik ethis has received by readers. It is difficult to question if these are legitimate reviews or maybe folks who are trying to boost the downloads/sales as you have no real way of knowing or getting an answer to that question. I am not quite sure.
Sometimes I have questioned my own sense of criticism because of some of these reviews, thinking perhaps I am too critical in my tastes, or perhaps maybe I just have a different preference than many people, but I am still perplexed by how folks are giving this book 5/5 stars in all categories. To me, the point of reviews is to give a good assessment of the quality of work embodied in the story and its performance. Do you honestly believe this book gets everything down perfectly?
If you want to believe that, then stop reading this and go ahead and download the book. But once you are done reading, come back and read the rest of my review for the moment of regret.
However, if you want an honest, unabashed, and slightly skewed perspective of opinion from someone who will try to be as objective as possible, then read on…I promise no spoilers.
What the Book gets right: This story gets quite a number of things right, especially for its target audience. Simple character background with uncomplicated reliance on a complex back story. The pace also moves fairly easily and quickly, meaning moments of tension and action come intermingled in a reasonable pace, and flow with equally easy-to-follow story arches. The characters are fairly easy to follow and their motivations and parts (at least in this book) are stark and uncomplicated. All in all it’s not a complex story, which is not bad, but not good enough to earn 5 stars in my simple opinion. Its targeted at the entry level military sci-fi reader. It’s written to be fun and simple.
What it gets wrong: It’s too simple. Don’t get me wrong, I like the straightforward nature of the premise and action. And the pace is fast enough to keep you engaged but not overwhelm you to the point of stopping and going back to prior sections to figure out what’s going, but the very same simplicity that helps move the pace, also burdens the story with a lack of character development. The characters..lack character. where is the drama? I get it, spaceships and aliens are exciting, but is that realy all anyone needs to say to make a book passable?
Nothing in the story really presents you with the sort of moral quandary, or depth of emotion that sets the good books apart from the “also-available”. The back-story is practically none existent and the primary antagonists and their motivations are so one dimensional and sophomoric, sometimes they seem a bit half-baked, and are killed off or dispatched with similar aplum. Robots that "feel", and a smuggling gangster with the personality of any stock bad guy taken from “name any bad guy gangster ever” is a bit soft and for any sci-fi enthusiast, their presence would make you question the decision to invest the time in this book.
Some people will like this book, just because they don’t know any better, and that’s a fact. And some will like it because it’s at their complexity level. I get it. When I started reading sci-fi I couldnt stand Alistar Reynolds and the likes…too much drama, pining and foreshadowing of events was my reasoning back then. But flash forward several years, life and kids, and I find that with my appreciation for the complexities of everyday life, I tend to enjoy characters with realistically complex motivations, backgrounds and yes, dramatic stories.
Because of all this, I say this is an okay book if you are looking for an easy Sci-fi listen with some action and some pretence at military underpinnings, but lacking character and depth. But if you are looking for something with actions as well as depth, character and engaging drama mingled with some great science to go with the fiction, you may want to “old Mans war” by John Scalzi, or anything in that series as they move just as fast but have great characters, point of views and stories that you will enjoy.
I am old enough to remember when Sci-Fi was mostly upbeat, the characters were likable, and the plot made sense. This book recaptures that tradition. And the narration was good, much better than in other Sci-Fi series I have recently listened to. The book is not deep but if you want some enjoyable escapist Sci-Fi, this is a good choice. I hope Audible makes the rest of the series available soon.