Friday, July 10, 2009

When the Sky Fell

Title: When the Sky Fell

Series: The Sky Chronicles #1

Authors: Mike Lynch and Brandon Barr

Genre: Adult Science-Fiction (Space Opera)

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of When the Sky Fell:

Lt. Commander Yamane hustled down the walkway, his pace brisk. Major Stan Kershaw kept up with him, stride for stride. They were running late…again. As a person who prided himself on precision and timing in every area in his life, Yamane hated the idea that someone else, even a close friend like Kershaw, could affect his duties in so profound a way. But here he was late for his third patrol in as many weeks. If things didn’t change soon, he would put himself on report.

Yamane caught himself. Despite all his efforts otherwise, he was becoming too rigid, too by-the-book. It bothered him when this happened. It was just another patrol, one of a dozen scheduled to go up that day. If he and Kershaw took off a little past their scheduled departure time, the heavens would not come crashing down on top of them.

Needing a distraction, Yamane found himself staring at a beautiful, darkening amber sky. A middle-aged yellow star hovered a little above the horizon, diminished in size and intensity, given the distance between itself and Titan. The day had almost ended, and many other nighttime stars were already flickering in the distance. Even when the Sun hung high in the mid-afternoon sky, the relative brightness was equivalent to an overcast day on Earth. If it were not for hundreds of light-enhancing satellites ionizing the upper atmosphere, people living in the capital city of Kalmedia would experience almost perpetual twilight.

A space pilot leads a mission to meet a new alien race, whose intentions may or may not be less than honorable, while third race looks on.

The Craft: When the Sky Fell is a fast-pace space adventure reminiscent of Star Trek and Ender’s Game.

Though the point-of-view is more distant than I prefer and quite a bit of technical-sounding jargon fills the pages, the style and language will be familiar to even the causal fan of this subgenre. The descriptions and explanations, when given, are seamlessly incorporated into the text, keeping the ride smooth. The characters are commanding, and once the plot reaches warp-speed, nothing short of a complete melt down could have slowed it.

Unfortunately, reaching that warp-speed was somewhat problematic.

While I can understand the use of the prologue as a writer, it seemed to produce more drag than acceleration at a point when grabbing the attention is so imperative. The unfamiliar terms and context confused; the names meant nothing to me; and I had no attachments to make the battle and its outcome sufficiently worrisome to me. As a result, telling and information dumps were employed, distancing the reader further from the story. In my opinion, the first chapter is strong enough to stand on its own, and cutting the prologue would not have caused the story to sustain any substantial damage.

Compounding this problem is how long it took to breach the first threshold (or the point of no return, as it is sometimes called)—nearly a third of the book. Yes, much set-up is required, but the pacing slowed significantly in a couple of places and the first threshold could have easily reached probably in three-quarters of the time with minimal tightening.

That said, once the point-of-no-return is passed, the plot accelerates until the pages fly by in a streaked blurr.

The Content: When the Sky Fell flies the border between the two types of Christian fiction (Christ as focus vs. Christ as foundation). For most of the book, faith thrums underneath the plot with veiled references to Christianity (e.g. the cross necklace and the 23rd Psalm) and the idea of a sovereign power orchestrating events. But every so often, faith bubbles to the surface in major ways, especially as the war between good and evil accelerates. I suspect the matters of faith might become more prominent should additional books be written in this series.

One thing, however, did cause my eyebrows to rise—the race of “creators.” In its use, it could be easily read as the concept of multiple gods, as you might find in Mormon theology. However, the authors, Mike Lynch and Brandon Barr, preceive this as a a type with the Trinity (see my upcoming interview). I can't saw I'm thrilled their methods; it is so easily miscontrued. But I can also understand how hard it can be to show the concept of the Trinity in different ways and I can accept where they're coming from.

The only other major content issue would be the violence. However, the majority is war violence done on such a scale that you rarely see the results of the violence up close or with any graphicness. Mostly you have exploding ships, crater-pocked planets, and a light mention of few corpses floating past.

Summary: This is probably not a novel you would want to hand a newbie to the sci-fi genre. But otherwise, When the Sky Fell is easily navigated, a safe and solid read accessible for teens and adults alike. I would highly recommend it for Christians who are die-hard fans of the genre.

Rating: Craft—3, Content—4, Overall—3.9 out of 5 stars

Interesting in buying When the Sky Fell? Stop by my bookstore, Words of Whimsy.

1 comment:

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

You have a bookstore now? You are amazing.

I'm really looking forward to the day you do a review of Worlds Unseen. Your reviews are educational in more ways than one.

(Yay Brandon for writing a highly recommended sci-fi novel!)