The flame of hope – Sylvia Engdahl’s “Defender of the Flame”

Description by the author / blurb:

Starship pilot Terry Radnor is puzzled and outraged when he is suddenly recalled from interstellar exploration to the desolate training base on Titan. His spirits rise after he volunteers for a secret project offering him extraordinary physical and psychic capabilities, yet before he can complete this new training, he is transferred against his will to the cruiser Shepard for a tour of duty he expects to hate. But Shepard’s mission turns out to be unlike anything he could have imagined. Advancing rapidly in his career, Terry finds fulfillment in love and in commitment to a cause–until an ironic twist of fate tears him away from everything he has ever cared about. He is forced to build a whole new life, far from all that has previously mattered to him, and only the effort to regain what he has lost keeps him from despair. Is there any hope that he can fulfill his pledge to protect the world whose safety is crucial–more crucial than anyone else knows–to the future of humankind?
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Review (a slighter shorter version can be found here)

This is sci-fi concerned about philosophical and societal questions. Sci-fi vocabulary and back-frame, rather than forming constitutive parts of the story, play the role of „tropes“, as the author explains. The sci-fi-frame, one realises, permits Engdahl to readily address the issues she is intent on sharing with the reader. Continue reading

A blast – Stefan Vucak’s “In the Shadow of Death”

Description by the author / blurb

 A backwater system in the Deklan Oligarchy, the Four Suns hides a sinister plot to destabilize the Serrll Combine government. An Envoy is sent to uncover the scheme before the Serrll explodes into factional warfare. Having ‘volunteered’ as a military aide to the Envoy, Second Scout Terrllss-rr uncovers a link between slavery and local government’s plans to cede the Four Suns. That knowledge marks him for death. Fleeing, his survival blister crashes on Anar’on, the fabled world of the Wanderer nomads. Terr is found in the deep desert, lost, without memory, without a past. To restore himself, Terr undergoes training in the Discipline. Facing the god of Death, he receives more than he bargained for.
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Review (a shortened version can be found here)

 All that really need be said about this novel is this: it’s simply gorgeous. There is no coveted goal in novel writing it doesn’t attain: an intriguing plot, well-drawn characters, atmospheric descriptions, pacing attuned to storytelling… Any one of these elements could be picked out and without exception the praise of its full implementation has to be sung for „In the Shadow of Death“. Thus, reviewing this work amounts to the awkward task of providing a critique for what shouldn’t reasonably be criticised. There is, however, no complete review without critique.
In consequence two aspects shall be highlighted and put to exalted scrutiny: descriptions and plot construction.  Continue reading

The small within the great – “Age of the Aura, Phase I: Champions of Power” by Samuel Odunsi Jr

Description by the author / blurb:

The Blessed Galaxy has no other name. After being gifted with the Auras—five great powerhouses of celestial creation—the title was a suitable fit. For millennia, the governing bodies have ruled their respective reaches of the Galaxy while harnessing the might of the Auras. But now they face the threat of a calamity, from an unlikely source, that could shake the lives of all.

Lowen Sars, a devout man of science, decides to take on the burden of saving the Galaxy’s people once he learns of the calamity. But he soon realizes that the role of a hero was a calling not meant for him, even with his sudden promotion. In his process of self-discovery, Lowen begins the fateful saga of not only the Blessed Galaxy, but also the kingdom in possession of the corrupt Aura.
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Review

The Auras are huge formations that radiate power. In the Blessed Galaxy five are dispersed among different peoples. The peoples derive energy for their different needs from them but also obtain certain gifts that border on the limits of the natural: longevity, physical prowess, foresight. With all their beneficial effects, the Auras remain a mystery. Their origin is unknown, as largely are their working mechanisms. The inhabitants of the Aorta Realm remember their Aura fell from heaven. The peoples with the Auras have become dependent on them. But they have become dependent on the unexplained.  Continue reading

Character overdrive – K.J. Blaine’s “Telepaths and Traitors”

Description by the author / blurb:

The year is 2042 and mankind has colonized the solar system. The International Space Alliance has emerged in response to the lawlessness teeming in the new frontier. The ISA’s most advanced ship, the Phoenix, has a mission of both peacekeeping and scientific research. The Phoenix’s power is unmatched by any other vessel, but can her crew withstand the threat of mind control and betrayal from within?

 An admiral with a grudge orders an antique B-29 to crash with Captain Jason Armstrong and two of the Phoenix crew aboard, but they parachute out in the nick of time. Lost at sea, with the Phoenix on the other side of the solar system, and aware they’re targeted for assassination, who can they trust to rescue them?

Join in the search and daring rescue!
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Review

Telepaths and Traitors“ is, above all, a story about Tim Macdonald, the communications officer of the Phoenix. “The Phoenix Chronicles” self-qualify as Space Opera centred on characters. The description is already done superabundant justice to in this first instalment of the Chronicles, because the chosen centre exerts such influence that the shape of the novel is not crafted by a storyline, it is worked by a person: that is, Tim. Continue reading

Classic Space Opera – T.D. Wilson’s “The Epherium Chronicles: Embrace”

Description by the author / blurb:

Book one of The Epherium Chronicles. It was a bizarre twist of fate that turned James Hood into the Hero of Pluto Station. Now, nearly 20 years after that famous battle against the hostile alien race known at the Cilik’ti, Hood is called on again for a dangerous mission. This time he must take a new ship, the Armstrong, into deep space to make contact with fledgling colonies, created from ships developed by the Epherium Corporation that were launched before the war with the Cilik’ti began. As their journey begins, Hood and his crew discover more information about the colonies and their corporate benefactors. What they uncover could be more dangerous to humanity than a new conflict with their formidable foe.

Review

As stated in the blurb, the “Epherium Chronicles” apparently draw their name from the Epherium cooperation, a huge and potent company. In the “Embrace” it’s to be learnt that Epherium meddles in several disparate activities, at least these ones: weaponry, space ship design and building, accelerator gates construction, hibernation technology, colonisation and terraforming – and scientific research in general. Perhaps one or two of these terms already makes someone less inclined to the natural sciences raise an eyebrow.   Continue reading