Disclosure: The reviewer received a review copy of this book via the AuthorLucifer's Star by C.T. Phipps, Michael Suttkus
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Space Opera
Source: the Author
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What do you get if you combine Star Wars, The Expanse, and Dark Matter?
Remember the scene in the movie Clerks where they discuss the destruction of the Death Star and how many innocent contractors and civilians on board were killed? This book takes that concept and runs with it. None of the factions are without sin. All tend to justify their actions with calls to the greater good. All, that is, except for our main characters, who are beset by guilt, envy, anger—all the good stuff.
Cassius Mass was a great fighter pilot and officer for the Crius Archduchy. As a member of the nobility, he was somewhat isolated from the grim realities of the Archduchy’s society. When the Archduchy went to war with the Commonwealth, Cassius fought hard—and lost. Now in hiding as a wanted war criminal, Cassius has repented his previous ways and allegiances, and just wants to live a quiet, inebriated life. However, a new conflict is brewing, and it includes the remnants of his once-beloved Crius.
The plot took a lot of turns. Every time I thought I had a handle on things, some new dimension of the story was revealed. This kept me engaged through the whole book and helped me move past some of the rough spots.
What rough spots? Well there’s quite a bit of exposition dumped in dialogue, especially at the beginning.
Also, this edition needed another pass from a proofreader. Many times we can read right through typos without batting an eye. However, this volume was full of typos that I couldn’t interpret, and made the meaning of whole paragraphs ambiguous. Update: The latest edition has corrected the significant typos.
The characters, though different in background and personality, all speak in exactly the same voice—very cynical and sarcastic, with lots of fast-paced banter. It has the tone of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, except the sarcastic jokes are coming from the characters of the story, not outside commentators. If it were not so deftly done, this could have knocked the reader completely out of the story. However, in this case it actually works pretty well.
There are some meaty themes here, too. There are explorations of stratified societies, cruelty to AIs, slavery, war crimes, and the use of force to compel those who are vulnerable. Oh, yeah—and space battles!
What Makes it Epic Grit:
- Adventure and Wonder: There’s galaxy-spanning civilizations, alien societies, and warring human factions. Oh, yeah—and space battles!
- Believable Characters: To an extent. The characters have rich backstories and clear motivations for their actions. However, they all speak with the same cynical voice and banter.
- Real Consequences: Yup.
- Epic in Scope: Again: Galaxy-spanning civilizations, alien societies, and space battles!
- Subverts “Good versus Evil” Tropes: I’d say that subverting the “good versus evil” trope was a major theme of this novel.
- Different Perspectives: Again, the characters were different, with very different backgrounds and motivations. However, they all seemed to share the same cynical perspective.
This is a great read for anyone who wants a little grimdark in their space opera. I’d love to continue reading about the further adventures (suffering?) of Cassius Mass and the crew of the Melampus.