science fiction, space opera

Review: An Unproven Concept

I’m struggling a little with continuing to do reviews on this blog. A while back – and I delayed this discussion to give some space, but those who read regularly will know which one – I did a less-than-glowing review on a book. Look, it’s a bad book. There are a lot of flaws with it, enough that I finally decided not to waste any more of my life on it, and I set it down. But I did a review anyway, pointing out that the hang-ups I had with it were in large part me… things I know that the general public doesn’t know or care about. I did like the first few books in the series.

I was attacked, personally, privately, and through multiple others, who told me quietly that they had received private messages asking them to squash me, or join in the attack. I was disappointed by this behaviour by an author, but not terribly surprised, I have caught flack for my reviews in the past. But I’ll make this clear. You can buy a ‘professional review’ if you want rave reviews about your book. You can’t buy or bully me.

Here’s the thing, though. I must be honest in my reviews. Just because I am also an author (and sure, I hate negative reviews of my work, but constructive criticism doesn’t bother me at all) does not mean I am going to ‘go easy’ on other authors for no better reason than tit for tat. I have an obligation to my readers, yes, you whose eyes are on these words. I’m going to tell it straight. Now, you might disagree with me. The book I couldn’t finish, you might feel it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I urge you to publish that review, because you’ll make the other author feel great! but don’t lash out at me just becuase you don’t like what I wrote about your book. Hiding that attack behind fans is even more unbecoming.

WHEW! Now that is off my chest, I can go on to the real meat of the matter today.

James, my friend, you already know this, but for my readers, I must say the truth and nothing but the truth. Readers, beloved readers, bear with me…

Your cover sucks, man. This isn’t true any longer, although I’m not going to talk about what a great cover it is now, since I had a hand in laying that out on the great art James came up with.

BUT the story inside the cover is terrific!

Ok, enough teasing the author. James L. Young came to my attention relatively recently, and I had picked up his short story The Ride of the Late Rain, hadn’t started it, when he released his novel An Unproven Concept.

Edited to add: *facepalm* I forgot a link… sorry, guys. Click on the icon below to check this book out.

Space Opera fans, my Harrington series peeps (heh), this is another one you’ll love. Those of you who glaze over at overly detailed space battles? Bear with the first chapter, then, and dig into the dovetailed plot and interesting characters he gives you from there on out.

The two plots intertwine, one the tale of the Space Fleet and the men and women who struggle to keep humanity from imploding into an interstellar war that threatens between the core worlds and the Spartans. The other is the story of the fatally-named Titanic, a gargantuan space liner for the rich and powerful to soar through the spectacle of the stars, dancing in micro-gravity.

The collision of these two story arcs is unexpected, and yet well-foreshadowed. I really enjoyed the gritty realism that Young, himself a veteran, put into the battles and something I rarely see detailed; the aftermath of battles.

He made me cry. I almost never cry at science fiction anymore, and I won’t spoil it, but the character who… well, there’s a holographic farewell delivered that made me laugh while crying. It was masterfully done.

And the ending, well, he keeps delivering right through the end, continuing after the climax to give the reader enough to satisfy them about the emotional growth of the major characters. It’s good. Really. It just needs a new cover to properly cue the awesomeness within. On the other hand, my blog readers can now be ahead of the curve, and sneak in before it takes off like Andy Weir’s Martian (which initially had a crappy cover, and I was surprised at the quality of the writing inside) and gets all popular.

Follow-through. Yeah, that’s what James Young has…