Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Take the Star Road

Peter Grant, of Bayou Renaissance Man, has written his first science fiction novel, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by it. Sarah Hoyt's blurb says, "evocative of Heinlein" and I have to agree that it reminds me a bit of some of his earlier young adult novels, both in theme and execution, such as Between Planets, The Star Beast, or Starman Jones, perhaps, but also is full of technical details in a manner reminiscent of Allen Steele's Clarke County, Space or Orbital Decay.

Steve Maxwell, the young protagonist, seems to be one of those folks who can fall in a pile of crap and come out smelling like a rose. The story begins when he and his employer are attacked by several members of a criminal tong, and Steve disables several of them quickly with his martial arts skills, which he acquired while defending himself from bullies in the orphanage where he was left after the death of his parents. Though he has only been doing temp work, his employer is grateful enough for Steve's help that he gives him a full time job as a server in his tavern, and sets him up with a meeting with the bosun's mate of a space ship when the opportunity arises, so that Steve can fulfill his dream of being a spacer, himself.

From that point, things proceed somewhat inexorably, given Steve's good character and strong work ethic, as he learns new skills and is rapidly promoted. Grant uses Steve's innocent eager questions as springboards for a metric ton of exposition about everything from the way space ships make their way through hyperspace to the traditions of the space navy and the history of Earth and its colonies. It works, but occasionally I was left wishing for a little less explanation and a touch more action.

It wasn't a page-turner, which kept me up past my bedtime, but it was a good solid read for a couple evenings' entertainment, and I'd certainly pick up the sequel, when Grant gets around to publishing it. Any and all sex and violence were strictly PG rated, and the lessons that Steve and readers of the book will learn are those of the traditional American mom and apple pie variety.

You can get a second opinion on the book from Brigid at Home on the Range, if you like.

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