So, last week I read two space opera novels and had planned to review them on my usual Friday, but time ran out. I work most weekends, and this last week, that meant Friday most of the day, too. Nice, for making-a-living, but meant I was pretty much away from computer for three days. I can access facebook on my phone, and emails, but the blog needs a monitor in front of my eyes and keyboard under my fingers. I was able to arrange for a very special guest post for Amazing Stories Magazine today, to appear in my blog spot there, and I will link to that later. With no further ado…
Well-Traveled Rhodes, by Gina Marie Wylie
I didn’t realize until I went to find the sequel, that this novel was itself a sequel. Although that immediately explained why I had trouble with the first chapter or so, following what was going on. I had tried to read it a while back, set it aside, and then given it another go this week, and was rewarded by the pieces coming together in chapter 2 or 3, and getting caught up into the tale of a very young woman suddenly catapulted into a position of authority.
While the twists and turns are fast and furious throughout, it is still well-paced, giving you time to watch the characters develop, and the concept of the very young people who take on mature roles is not a new one. Until a hundred years ago, this was a norm, not an exception, which is, I am sure, what the author wanted to evoke in her story. A time of all-enveloping war brings changes to a culture, and frontiers demand personal responsibility, or deal out death to the unwary and unwitting.
When the war becomes two-fronted, I almost missed what had happened, and had to go back a few pages and re-read, something I prefer not to do, but it was a difficult scene to work in without giving the surprise away. Although as I mentioned above, I am sure there is a sequel, the ending was satisfying enough to not be a cliff-hanger, which was a pleasant change from some works I have read recently!
Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
While this novel shares similar themes with the other review this week, it is still completely different in voice, plot, and setting.
A young man forced into service because he has no other options seems like something I have read many times before, but the reasons behind it seem jarring to me, like an alternate history has created a world I don’t see in a real future. I found that the most difficult part of this story to swallow, oddly enough. I am no Malthusian, and kept wondering ‘why didn’t he just leave the ghetto and get out in the country?’
The service itself did ring true, like so many other tales of a young man coming of age in boot camp and beyond. The battle in the Detroit ghetto reminded me strongly, as I am certain the author intended, of BlackHawk Down. The results of it seem oddly flat, however. In a world that is so heavily populated, where was the media, the outrage? Yes, there was a single military officer threatening our hero, but even that was circumvented. And no explanation was given of the advanced weaponry taht the characters commented should not have been available to the rioters they were fighting. Where did it come from, and why?
The story takes a turn, though, and we don’t find out, nor does our hero have any lingering curiosity about it, taking off to pursue his love life onboard a Navy ship in space. Again, I was left wondering, ‘wouldn’t someone notice? What if she gets pregnant, and is fraternization onboard an active-duty ship really this accepted and common?’ Then, the final twist of the novel was a surprise, and felt like this story started out one place, and wound up someplace else entirely, not at all where you would anticipate when you began. There was a closure, a casual separation from the lover who you feel is almost discarded in anticipation of the next book, and a wide-open lead-in for a sequel.
If it sounds like I’m not recommending this book, that isn’t really the case. I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I would re-read it, but it kept my attention throughout, with no lags, and not enough throwing me out of the story to make it unpalatable. If you enjoy a fast-moving space opera with gritty battle scenes and good training scenes, you’ll like this one. But it does have some plot and setting issues.