Friday, July 31, 2009


Title: Starfire

Series: The Mending #1

Author: Stuart Vaughn Stockton

Genre: Adult Science-fiction (Alternate World/Military)

Excerpt from the prologue of Starfire:

Rough stone tore Rathe’s palms as he stumbled through the gaping maw of the cave. He tore away the make-shift leaf filter covering his mouth and sucked in the cool underground air, soothing his burning lungs. Pain lanced through his side as each breath tortured cracked ribs.

He turned to the entrance and gazed into the ash-clogged air outside. Grey blanketed the world like a shroud, quickly swallowing his large three-toed tracks and obliterating any scent that would lead the trackers to him. Satisfied that he would be safe for the duration of the ash fall, Rathe staggered father into the cave. His claws echoed hollowly on the stone floor, their quiet
clack, clack, clack bouncing into the darkness.

The musical trickle of water sounded nearby, and Rathe angled toward it. Sudden wetness at his feet alerted him to the presence of a shallow pool. He lowered gingerly to the ground and stuck his snout into the chill liquid. The bitter taste of ash flowed over his tongue, but sweet relief filled his parched throat. Yet each swallow intensified the pain in his ribs.

The cool, moist rock felt good against his hot skin. He rolled onto his left side, away from the fire in his battered ribs, and stretched out to his full twelve-foot length. His tail-tip lazily slapped against the ground as drowsiness flowed over him. The water’s flow sung him to sleep.

A shrill cry jolted Rathe from soothing darkness.

A dinosaur-like warrior rediscovers an ancient weapon that throws him into the cross-hairs of treachery, prophecy, and the fate of his world.

The Craft: Starfire is world-building at its best.

In some alternate reality stories, the world is built around the story, kept low-keyed and even simplistic. (My work tends to be of this type.) But some authors have mastered the art of creating vivid, complex, and unique worlds that takes a stand of its own. Welcome to Mr. Stockton’s Sauria.

Within the pages of Starfire, you will discover a completely alien world fully realized. Plants and wildlife, history and geography, politics and technology, medicine, military ranks and weapons, manners, social status—you name it, Mr. Stockton has probably developed it in full Technicolor. And even more amazing, though the descriptions are rich with these details, they never significantly slow the pace.

While this complex and vivid world is by far the best part of Starfire, the story does not disappoint. The primary characters are fairly well developed, each with their own flaws, virtues, and motivations. The plot is tight, with consistent tension. The style is clean and easy to read.

What else can I say? Starfire is simply a well-told story.

The Content: While not a humanoid is in sight, God is real and active within the pages of Starfire. Sometimes He shows up in unexpected ways, but the allegorical parallels are clear. So while the main character (Rathe) may with to deny it, every unfolding event displays the sovereignty of God, even as every character has complete free-will. In fact the whole of Starfire demonstrates well the balance of these two often-sticky theological concepts.

On the other side, Starfire was created for adults and the content reflects this. As a military tale, there is much violence (general as well as up-close and personal) and swearing. Yet the swearing will not be offensive to most, as the language is completely different than ours, and the violence, though frequent and personal, rarely turns graphic.

Finally I would like to note that this book has a dark and raw edge. Much comes from “good” characters making wrong choices, believing all the while they are the right choices. There is nothing wrong with this—indeed it is very true to life—but these kind of decisions are not of the kind that spark hope. Yet the prophecy at the book’s start grants a slender thread of light throughout, enough to give the reader courage to face the next book.

Summary: While Starfire has a definite bent toward male readers, it combines a complex world with an intricate plot and relatable characters. So this story will appeal to both genders, especially those who enjoy science-fiction/fantasy (those unfamiliar with the genre will likely find the complete break with the familiar disorienting) or who are looking for something a bit (okay, quite a bit) different to read. Because of content concerns, however, I would not recommend this for readers under thirteen or fourteen years of age.

Rating: Craft—5, Content—3, Overall—4.0 out of 5 stars

Find Starfire at Words of Whimsy!

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