Published by Tor Books (15th September 2020)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Actual rating of 3.5 stars
During a routine survey mission, Kira Navarez and her crew are just hours off leaving their current mission, when a drone check turns into a nightmare. Kira has always dreamed of life on new worlds, but that dream soon turns to something she couldn’t have ever imagined. When finding herself in a strange chamber with what appears to be an alien artifact, she is elated at the discovery, until the ancient dust around the artifact begins to move. Soon she finds herself on the run from people who want to do experiments on her the dust which has attached itself to her body; in the middle of a galactic war with alien species, and the fact that Earth and it’s colonies now stand on the brink of annihilation. All she wanted was to discover new worlds, but she may be the last hope in saving life as we know it.
I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for probably around two odd years now. The synopsis really dragged me in when I first purchased it, but the sheer length and size of this book really intimidated me. Finally I decided, to hell with it, and picked it up. I don’t know what I was expecting from this story, and I can’t honestly tell you if what I got was it, or whether what I got was even better than I could have hoped. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book, so I’ve been sitting on this review for a while now.
I do believe that I thought this book would be more alien thriller or have little horror type elements to it, I can’t even tell you WHY I thought that. I guess reading in the blurb about an alien artifact and dust that moves just brought to mind something along the lines of Alien or even The Abyss (in a weird totally not connected at all way), and that’s not what I got. There is a lot of things going on in this story, but there’s not that much actually happening, if that makes sense? Kira is with her team on a planet, they are there doing survey work, on the morning they are supposed to leave, one of the drones went down and they need to go check it out before they leave. The opening portion of the book was incredibly riveting and really dragged me in. I absolutely adored the characters that we meet here and I was really loving getting to know Kira. Then all hell breaks lose and I still found myself engrossed in the story, but then the pacing issues kinda kicked in. There was a lot of ups and downs in this one, going through sections where there’s things happening and we’re being given heaps of information about what’s going on, then there’s a fair few parts where Kira simply drifts off to sleep in oblivion and we’re transported to the next part of the story. I wasn’t completely thrown off by the number of times that Kira fell asleep, but after a while, it did get a little bit tiring (pardon the pun). It seemed that this was the way that Paolini decided to transition through the different plot points, and I’ll admit, the first time it happened, it was fine, but I felt that the repetitiveness of it got a bit tedious. I understand that in SciFi there’s of course going to be long haul flights where the crew must burrow down and go into hypersleep or cryosleep or whatever term the author wants to use. I just don’t feel that we really needed to go along for the ride on all of the occasions that we did. I definitely feel like the length of the novel could have been trimmed down a touch had these parts been edited out.
The characters. I did enjoy Kira in the beginning, but after a while she almost became a shell of a character that wasn’t really giving me much. The crew of the Wallfish were stellar and I absolutely adored every single one of them. Their personalities were so big and I just loved that they were essentially a rag tag group of space pirates out to make a buck but who had hearts of gold at their core. The secondary character just had more flavour than our MC and while I did care what happened to Kira, I think it was only because of how what happened to her would impact and effect the characters who had become close to her through the whole thing. I guess I didn’t really care about her as much as I should have. I also adored the rest of the survey team and wish we could have gotten a bit more time with them than what we did in the beginning.
The story itself was an interesting idea, and while I like that Paolini didn’t get bogged down in all the over the top details that I think some SciFi novels can, I still feel like this needed more editing and a harsher editor than what was given. There is a basic linear story here, but there’s just not a whole lot happening for the length that it is. And I have to admit, it was hard to wrap my head around one of the alien species that we’re battling against being referred to as Jellies. I read another review that pointed out how that term just seemed to be a little…childish? and I thought they might have been clutching at straws, but when you read a nearly 900 page book and see it written that many times, it just grated a little and didn’t strike the fear into my heart the way I feel like it should have. The ending battle was well written and very engaging, I liked that it wasn’t just a two page read and then that was it. I do think that what happened after this though became pretty fantastical and I still don’t know how I feel about it or whether I quite jive with what went down. I do like that things kind of went full circle and I enjoyed the conversation that Kira and Gregorovich had in the ending part of the story, that gave me little warm fuzzies. But overall, I just don’t know that I was completely satisfied with the way things ended and wrapped up.
All in all, I honestly don’t really know how I feel about this book. Paolini can definitely write and has an amazing imagination. Some parts came off a little childish which really clashed with the fact that this is aimed at an older audience. I still don’t know how I feel about the ending. Though I never considered DNFing this one, even though the pacing really dropped for me in numerous parts of the story. There were some great characters, and some that could have probably taken a bit more work, but overall it’s not a bad book. It is a behemoth of a book though, so I can understand why others gave up after a while. If you’re into scifi and the battle for the survival of man kind, taking a wild ride with a woman who just wants to do the right thing, and a crew of misfits who have a pig and a cat on board their ship, give it a go, you might enjoy it.
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