Vestige by Chris Roper – 8 GPPs- Available from Amazon
Ok first off, lest there be a suspicion of bias within my review, Chris the author has written an article, a great one at that, for this website. He also not only works for the same company as me but selflessly spent a lot of time helping with my grammar and composition issues; being dyslexic has made the task of writing for a website a challenge, to say the least!
So why not just throw this do gooder / colleague a fricken bone and give his new endeavor a great score for the sake of it? Well part of me wanted to; good things should happen to good people, as they say, but I didn’t think he would appreciate the kindness and might take it as an insult for all his hard work and toil; as well as undermining my own credibility as a reviewer / writer.
I therefore set myself to the task of being as honest and constructive as possible, and here is what I came up with:
Note there will be spoilers in this review, so be warned.
Straight to the Point: An unexpected jem of a novella: exciting, well thought out and nearly perfectly executed. Watch out for this author, he’s going interstellar places!
Story – They thought themselves alone; abandoned, lost and without hope.
Then it arrived.
The crew of the WSA Pytheas drift helplessly towards the outer edge of the Solar System. Cut off from Earth and lacking any means of rescue, the ship continues its inexorable drift while the crew wait to die.
Then the sudden arrival of a mysterious object sparks a chain of events that could either extricate them from danger or cause their destruction.
Captain Marcus Keats, Navigation Officer Piedro Alvarez and ship biologist Dr Natalie McCarran must choose what and whom to trust as they struggle to understand the artefact’s purpose, and the new danger threatening to tear them apart.
What we like:
It’s just bloody well written -The story had direction, the characters substance and it was just a master class in the English language; a pleasure to read.
ENCORE,ENCORE! – As with any great book, if you are left wanting to read more then the author has done their job properly. Chris has certainly achieved this and I found myself willing there to be that little bit more as the percentage meter at the bottom of my kindle quickly made its way to the 100% mark; lamenting the end when it finally hit the last page.
Based on real science – This is science fiction based on science fact, or at least established theory; something you will know, if you read Chris’s article on Quantum leaps in science, he is very passionate and well read on. Everything he writes seems to have a bedrock of plausibility to it; from the expansion of the universe to wormhole travel. All current topics and something that can only have come from a man who has spent a lot of time researching the subject he wrote so well about.
Familiarity – I know Chris is into his Horror and Science fiction so when I read through Vestige I could see slight nods (be it intentional or subconscious) to books and films like 2001, Alien, the Sphere and Event Horizon. Inspiration that gave me, as a reader, a sort of pre formed view of the ship, the mood, and the sense of hopelessness that the characters must have felt while drifting in space for so long; morphing the 2D text, on my screen, to a 3D image in my head.
Fiction, based on theory, with ramifications for theology– Vestige dances around the mine strewn battlefield that is religion and belief quite a bit but never quite goes for the jugular on either side (wise man). What it does do, and what really hit a chord with me, is give alternate explanations and the scope for further possibilities. The idea that humanity, in another universe, evolved to the point where they left their bodies and became higher beings of thought and energy was intriguing, and, after a long think about it, surprisingly plausible; if you accept and believe in an infinite multiverse theory that is.
I am unsure if this was Chris’s intent but it was a nice side effect of the story that really got me thinking about stuff I thought I had pinned down years ago. Granted, I am still a “Nonbeliever” a theological infidel if you will, but the book, fiction as it is, raised some interesting theories and I guess you could argue with an infinite multiverse, well, the possibilities are… infinite.
The Crazy Catholic and the selfless hero – I thought I could second guess most of this book (part of me was actively trying to) but each time I thought I had it figured, something else happened and I was happily wrong… that is, apart from when it came to Piedro and Marcus; both of whom have come fresh from the Sci-Fi mold of how to make a crazy bad guy and heroic captain; after a few chapters I wrote the following down on my note paper: “the crazy Catholic will try and kill everyone and Marcus will save the day but die trying.”
Now obviously this is down to personal preference and I have no problem, as will others, with this tried and tested formula, but I was kinda expecting / wanting something different. I knew it was coming, I could feel it, but every now and again something happened and a part of me went “oh, maybe I’ll be wrong” only for it to alter its trajectory back on its inevitable course. As much as this didn’t ruin anything for me it did slightly disappoint.
‘Gratuitous beaver shot’ – Vestige is not an overly Graphic / adult book (say along the lines of Martin’s ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series which verge on the down right sadistic and pornographic) but it does contain the odd bit of mature content; nothing I can’t handle. So what was the issue? Well the book, in general, is pretty tame language and violence wise, so was rather strange (and somewhat amusing) when a full blown, pretty graphic, sex scene appeared out of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong that isn’t a problem (not much shocks me anymore) but It didn’t feel like it sat well with the writing style, seeming more as if Chris, like a painter unsure with what technique to use, had thrown it in to test the water. Which is fine, but because I was caught off guard I found myself immaturely giggling, like a school boy whose mate had just written boobies on his calculator, and when the word “seed” was used I nearly fell off the bed!
It didn’t detract from the book at all and I understand why that scene / segment was there, but I think it could have been done differently, to the same effect and inferred sensual beauty that I think Chris wanted to put across.
FYI – the word ‘SEED’ should never be used in a book unless set in Ye Olden times, and there best be a buxom serving wench being ploughed at the time when it is.
Bone Density –This point I could have got completely wrong, but due to their time in space the crew of the pytheas have been taking bone density supplements and, the Captain at least, has had regular sessions in the resistance chamber to help fight the degenerative effects caused to bone when in zero gravity environment. This makes sense and is true to what I understand of current space travel, but as much as Chris has tried to keep his science and his fiction in a cohesive phalanx, assaulting you with a great story and a learning experience all in one, it sort of falls by the way side as the story progresses.
My case and point is Piedro… The Spaniard is thrown against the floor of the ship and fractures his cheek bone, but yet later, after going a bit crazy, decides to batter the rest of the crew over the noggin with a hammer, with no real detriment to their cognitive abilities and certainly with no fractures to their skulls that would lead to serious brain damage or even death?
Surely with weakened bones this would have been inevitable, if Piedro’s injury is anything to go by, and especially in Natalie, who spent little or no time in the resistance chamber and hadn’t been taking her pills?
All very pernickety I know, and not overly a major issue but I felt so much effort had gone into the science within the book that this felt slightly lazy… “the book is coming to an end, I’m losing the will to live after writing so much, lets knock everyone out with a hammer and get on with it.”
I enjoyed Vestige immensely and was genuinely gutted that it ended so soon. Sure, it’s a short outing and there are some fine tweaks needed but I feel Chris can be immensely proud of his achievement; let’s hope he gets back on the horse sooner rather than later because I need more!
Amazing book and a great start for a promising future.
at £0.99 it’s a fricken steal; BUY IT!