Three flying saucers
Fellow blogger Kal Spriggs responded to my last call for authors, and provided an audiobook version of The Fallen Race. In doing so, he’s given me a bit of a puzzle: I don’t think I can write a one-size-fits-all review; whether you’ll enjoy this story or have no interest in it will largely depend upon your tastes as a reader. Hopefully, I can let you know which group of readers you fall into.
I place the story within the military and space opera sub-genres of science fiction. If the rise and fall of nations, or a clash between space fleets, interests you as much as inter-personal conflict, then this story may be for you.
The story is primarily plot/event driven. The main character is reminiscent of the hero in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series; he spends his time dealing with problems which pop up, rather than struggling with internal demons or moping when the action is over. If you are tolerant of stories that aren’t character-focused, then this story may be for you. Personally, I think there is room for plot-driven stories, and in my recent review of the Power of Six, I mentioned that many great science fiction short stories revolve around an idea or technology rather than a character. There are even stories which depend upon the setting; Larry Niven’s Ringworld and The Integral Treesare the first ones that come to mind.
Much of the story is episodic, with a new character, alien race, or problem being introduced in each chapter. This structure is a bit different from most novels, but shouldn’t be too unusual for fans of sci-fi TV shows. It would probably work well as a serial, but unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a real market for those at the moment.
One of the things which Kal does well is create bad guys who are really bad; you’ll want to see them bite the dust. In one case, it’s a traditional bad guy (actually a gal) villain, but in other cases, it’s an organization or entire race of aliens. These bad guys are believable; it’s easy to imagine people or aliens behaving in such a manner.
Kal also comes up with a believable solution to a difficult problem faced by all writers of military sci-fi: the “good guy” characters have to face a force more powerful than their own, yet must be victorious in the end. Apparently “Goliath stomps David” doesn’t make for a very interesting story. I think if you fed every work of military science fiction into an artificial intelligence, it would determine that the key to victory is to be the smaller or weaker force at the start of a battle.
Let me know in the comments section whether this sounds like your kind of story. Kal has also just released a sequel, The Shattered Empire, and I believe he plans to continue the series further.
If you’re willing to brave the spoiler dragon, you’ll read about a couple of fairly minor issues which distracted me briefly. Let me know what you think about those issues; I’m curious whether my thoughts are atypical.
There are two instances where a fleet commander abandons his mission, and his entire nation, because a psychic tells him it’s necessary for the future of the human race. I’m not saying this couldn’t happen, but I needed some more backstory to make it seem rational, such as recounting a historical event where an admiral ignored a psychic and his nation was destroyed. In at least one case, the fleet commander had personal and professional reasons not to trust his own empire, but it still seemed to me that he still accepted the psychic’s word a little too readily.
The story also makes use of the technique (nearly ubiquitous in science fiction, so perhaps I’m the only one bothered by this) of introducing a type of person/place/thing which the reader can’t possibly understand, then explaining it later in the story. I feel that if something is implicitly understood by the characters, then it should be immediately revealed to the reader as well. Along these lines: in the middle of a dialogue, it is revealed that the characters’ nation has fallen to an alien attack – 4 days ago. That’s the kind of context the reader needs at the start of the dialogue, and there was a missed opportunity to show the emotional reactions of the officers and sailors as they learn the news.