D. Nolan Clark.
2.5 stars out of 5.
Commander Lanoe is one of the Navy’s greatest heroes, but the civil war left him with nothing but painful memories. When a planetary governor is murdered, it falls to Lanoe to hunt down the killer and bring them to justice.
Yet his pursuit will lead him towards the greatest threat mankind has ever faced.
An unknown armada has emerged from the depths of space, targeting an isolated colony planet. As the colonists plead for help, the politicians and bureaucrats look away. But Lanoe has never run from a fight and he will not abandon thousands of innocents to their fate.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Forsaken Skies is the first book in The Silence trilogy. It’s space opera but on a more intimate scale than epic featuring a smaller cast of characters and predominantly the fate of a single planet though there’s definitely the chance for things to happen on a grander scale and scope in the sequel. The book starts with the main character of the book, the legendary Aleister Lanoe in pursuit of another space craft being piloted by Thom. This is the set up and catalyst to meeting the rest of the core cast of characters for the whole book. During the pursuit both space crafts have to pass through the Hexus (a massive space hub). After causing trouble for the operator of the hub (Orbital traffic controller Tannis Valk) on the pursuit Lanoe lands to sort out what’s going on. Lanoe fought for the Polys (massive corporations) and Earth during the Establishment Crisis years before and Tannis Valk for the enemy The Establishment, with Valk being a symbol of hope and courage amongst the Establishmentarians and being known as the Blue Devil. The relationship that develops between the two through the book is a nice addition as it gives some history and shows to fighters who used to be enemies become comrades and friends. While on the Hexus, Lanoe sees one of his old squad Ensign Caroline Ehta who after being asked by Lanoe gets caught up in the affairs going on. When Lanoe’s and the other ship passed through the Hexus a cargo carrier had to be diverted by Valk to avoid a catastrophic collision, it was a cargo carrier and shouldn’t have had humans on board but Valk got a message saying that the move he had advised would cause distress to the passengers, passengers on a cargo freighter, mystery! Valk investigates and finds inside the carrier Elder McRae and Aspirant Roan from the planet Niraya. They have come to the Hexus to meet Lieutenant Auster Maggs who has promised to help them with Niraya’s problem, an attack by an unknown source. Maggs isn’t who he seems though and is out to swindle the Elder and Aspirant for money to pay of debts he owes. But, Lanoe agrees to help the Elder protect Niraya and the Nirayans, roping Valk, Ehta and also Bettina Zhang – his old second in command who he contacts for ships and help. Thus, after this rather convenient way of connecting the group together, the core group heads of to defend the fate of the planet against the unknown enemy force.
That’s a very rudimentary explanation of the story but as I try to avoid spoilers I can’t really elaborate any more as it would ruin the actual story for those who are likely to read the book. Though I will say that there are some slight spoilers ahead in this review (namely the unknown enemy threat – but it’s space Opera so I’m sure you can already guess what that threat turns out to be anyway) as they are the only way that I can make my point about the book.
The world or should that be space building in the book is really good, the Hexus, Niraya and Aruna are all well-developed and individual places. The spacecraft’s are all well designed. The history and lore are also in-depth bringing a sense of what has happened in the wars before and it feels like the author has put a lot of effort into creating the setting for his space opera to take place in.
Unfortunately while the world building is really good the character building isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the character building itself is decent enough it’s just that the actual characters themselves aren’t all that likeable. Someone should have told the author that to really care about the characters fates you need to care about the characters themselves. Lanoe isn’t the most enigmatic choice for a lead protagonist, he’s very generic as a gruff and grizzled veteran. It took me ages to actual like him but by the end he had grown on me enough for me to say that overall he is a decent character but he’s not captivating or charismatic and while he will grow on you it’s a slow process until you see some real emotion out of him and understand his motives for wanting to defend the planet about three-quarters of the way through the book. That emotion Lanoe shows towards Zhang comes across as genuine and is apart from anger is the only time we see any real feeling from him throughout the entire book. Also, his reason behind helping the Nirayans when you learn it is very stereotypical. I really didn’t like Elder McRae or most of the Nirayans either, if someone agreed to help save your planet then you would be grateful for that help no matter how big the odds of success. Being honest, in the realm of the hypothetical, if I had gone to help defend/save a planet and the inhabitants were like the Nirayans, especially the Elders there’s a good chance I would simply have left them to their own fates. I didn’t like Maggs either, but that’s the type of character he is so the author did a good job of his characterisation and making him unlikable, he has some redeeming moments but most of the time you just want to give him a wallop in the face. Ehta was a rather bit part character who I neither really minded or didn’t mind. I did like Zhang and thought she added a lot to the group and helped you like Lanoe more as you learn more about their history and back story and the only time that Lanoe shows any real feeling and emotion throughout the book is to do with Zhang. I liked Valk to, he was overall a well-developed and rounded character.
My two favourite characters in the book were Thom and Aspirant Roan. I have only mentioned Thom’s name once before to avoid spoilers but he during the book he turns into one of the better characters as he struggles to deal with his own inner feelings and tries to help aid the defence of Niraya. Aspirant Roan is probably the best character in the book, she’s only a secondary character to, that tells you all you need to know about the main group of characters. During the book she shows the most character development and growth, maturing into a decent but smaller part character contributing to one significant moment in the story.
The unknown enemy that is heading towards Niraya after much debating amongst the main characters until they finally find out for themselves in the book turns out to be aliens. Yes, it’s space opera so you the reader probably guessed after reading about the first attack in the book who the enemy was but are oh so clever characters take absolutely ages to figure this out!
The defence of Niraya and then Aruna (a moon orbiting Garuda, a planet near Niraya) when the group move there is generally well written and the author does a great job of writing the space battles making them exciting and action packed. Those battles are arguably the main highlight of the book. The alien armada contains various different ships (Landers, Orbiters, Interceptors, Swarmships and a Queenship) and is a menacing and ominous threat but, we don’t see any actual aliens, though very late on near the end we do get to learn what they look like and their goal. What we get instead is an armada of drones sent out by the aliens. Now, as I wrote previously they are a menacing threat and the ships number in the hundreds/thousands which is overwhelming odds for our group of saviours to defeat. However, the drones only have very simplistic programming and thus the group of pilots can easily defeat a vast amount of the enemy fleet, due to their flying prowess and it’s only the numbers that happen to turn the battles and finally overwhelm the group during the last stand. But, the problem with this is and it left me thinking. That if Lanoe had managed to get a proper squadron or fleet of space craft and fighters together then they would have easily been able to defeat the drone armada. I feel it would have improved the book if the author had done a better job of creating a feeling of dread at the scale of the armada, yes, you feel dread when on Niraya with the armada getting closer but when the small number of pilots start laying waste to vast amounts of drones you just think, oh well, if there was more fighters then they would have easily turned the armada back and saved Niraya. When the odds do get too much near the end, help comes from an unlikely source in the form of a character who leaves part way through the book, returning just in time to help save the day. Just like with the group converging on the Hexus at the books beginning, it seemed another rather convenient and contrived plot twist to save the day and it also felt quite rushed.
The writing of the book, well, I have to mention that it is a long read, it is 570 page in hardback sized paperback and you feel through every one of those pages. At times it is well written with some really good sections, segments and action scenes thrown in by the author but overall the writing comes across as overly descriptive, blocky and clunky. In the end you struggle to find the well written parts buried within the mass of prose.
One thing that really annoyed me with the writing was that when Elder McRae was talking to the other characters she would say M.Lanoe or M.Valk, it seemed unnecessary and pointless and it just didn’t flow. Another thing was, most of the time when the group destroys drones they did just that, destroyed them but a couple of times the author wrote that they had killed them. Now, I know some of you may think that I’m being very pernickety here, but humans kill other humans, drones kill humans and humans destroy drones. For me, I thought it was technically impossible for drones to be killed as they aren’t sentient?!?!
While the overall story itself is good and the alien threat and their intentions are interesting the actual book lacks much emotion and any real humour. Also, dare I say it, the book could have done with being editing down in length. For me the author could have easily shaved off a hundred pages or more making the story faster paced and far more enjoyable as in it’s current length the book feels bloated and drags taking ages for anything significant to happen.
I’m sorry to say that after reading Forsaken Skies, while I enjoyed parts of it, unless you are an avid sci-fi fan looking to add another book to your collection that I unfortunately cannot recommend it. There are some good points and redeeming qualities to the book but overall the flaws far out weigh them. I’m not sure myself if I will read the sequel, yes, I’m quite interested to see where the story goes but with the writing style and lack of engaging characters I really don’t know what my decision will be about continuing with the trilogy. I would suggest that unless you are a fan of the genre that you stay away from this book.
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