Info-Dumpy but Likeable Characters
I found this book because I'd walk through fire for John Lee, the narrator.
Renegade – Shepherd, Joel (Book 1, Spiral Wars)
After striking out on a few Science-Fiction recommendations which were not Science-Fiction, I wanted to go back to some old faithfuls. Recently, however, I wanted a new adventure, so had a look at John Lee's back catalogue. John Lee is up there for me as one of the best narrators on Audible. I will listen to a book just because he has narrated it.
Up popped Joel Shepherd and his Spiral Wars series. I was torn. Military Sci-fi and (now) eight books long. I have been burned by military science fiction before—especially when it’s a long series (B. V. Larson's Undying Mercenaries series, I’m looking at you). But I took a chance.
It's as if one of those military shows I grew up with (Hornblower, Sharpe) was set in space. It didn't bang on about military terminologies or any ooh-rah bollocks. The fact that it was set on a military vessel with marines was almost secondary to the story. If there was a skirmish, there was military speak, but it didn't pause the action to tell you why a marine said that did that or wore that. You were flung along with the high-speed decision-making until everything came to a head. I also liked how Eric ('LC') was learning about the marines' culture and brought me along for the ride. Again, Shepherd didn't come across as lecturing me on the finer points of military life.
Shepherd also didn't make the mistake of thinking the reader had no idea what a spaceship was. Descriptions were left to things and concepts which were new, and I think the longest one was about how the crew coped with high-G manoeuvres and the related facilities on the ship. I appreciated that as I throw up if my Hyundai goes around a corner too quickly, I don't know about surviving a high-G manoeuvre. However, Shepherd hasn't quite got the hang of dialogue. When it is being used to move the story along, it's grand. But there are a few instances where he uses it to info-dump. There's one scene in the medical bay which needs a good edit or a different approach to providing that information.
For me, all the characters are likeable. This is important. If I don't like a character, I am kicked out of the story, and I'm done. Every character in Renegade is likeable on their first appearance. And (because it is good writing) they become a 'bad guy' or 'not liked' because of something they do during the story. Shepherd doesn't build a character and then goes into excruciating detail about what makes them ‘bad’. “You must hate this character here's why!”. He also doesn't introduce a character with a big sign saying, “I'm the bad guy; I will become an arch-nemesis and have a surprise resurrection a few books along!”
I enjoyed this book and had the second one (Drysine Legacy) ready to go before it finished. Why did I enjoy it? Because I kept reading. I wanted to know what happened next. At literally every moment, I needed to see what the result was. Should that be a commanding phrase guaranteeing everyone will like this book? No. This is a small blog on a small corner of the internet; this is not the Times Book Review.
Beir bua agus beannacht.