Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Sep 24, 2013

Solar Clipper Trader Tales

So, I've been reading this series by Nathan Lowell.  The first book, Quarter Share, is quite enjoyable, unfortunately it becomes somewhat erratic after that.  This is somewhat of an odd series and I think that's where the erratic quality comes from.  The first novel is a type of story I really enjoy but I'm not sure it's for everyone.  There's no actual conflict, it's just a story of someone cast adrift and establishing a new life for themselves.  I generally call stories of this kind "survival stories", but this is because most of the ones I read involve people going one-on-one with the wilderness.

This particular series takes place in a sort of generic futuristic space setting where goods are shipped from one system to another on solar clippers--ships that sail on the charged particles of the solar wind because they only have to get far enough out of the system to, basically, teleport from one to the next.  All right, I'll buy this.  Of course, the setting is full of the standard planet-that-is-all-one-climate trope.  It's basically fantasy with science fiction trappings, there's no real science to be found.  That's not a criticism, though, just a description.

So, the general story is about trading, which Lowell manages to make interesting and fun.  My main difficulty with the series (apart from the fact that the writing quality is only so-so) is that the characterization of the main character is, well, annoying.  He's basically a Mary Sue with no real flaws (although he's excessively humble about flaws he does not, in fact, have).  There's a real dearth of showing and a lot of telling going on here, particularly when the protagonist is supposed to be experiencing some kind of emotion.  Lowell has to tell you four or five times that the protagonist is sad, but he never actually *does* anything.  The third book (Full Share) just DRAGS, particularly toward the end where there are multiple pages in a row that read like this:

I met with some people and had fun.
I'm so sad that I'm leaving my ship behind.
I had some sandwiches.  They were tasty.
I met with some people and they gave me presents.
I'm so sad.
More sex.

This goes on for PAGES.  It should have been ONE PARAGRAPH.  I do not need to know about every. single. time. the protagonist takes a shower, goes for a jog, or eats a meal.  In fact, if it has no plot significance I shouldn't have to know about ANY time he does this.

I could do without all the superlatives, too.  Protip: words like "wonderful", "magnificent", "perfect", etc. are not actually descriptions of anything.  When you use them pretty much exclusively in your descriptive passages, you just make your protagonist look fatuous.  Which, by the way, is a perfect description for Mr. Ishmael Horatio Wang's relationships with women.

Still, I have read as far as Double Share, which was actually decent and introduced a villain of sorts,  although the Mary Sue protagonist magics him away with Tai Chi after numerous showers, meals, naps, etc.

Take home point:  I've enjoyed reading it, but won't read it again.  You probably won't enjoy it at all unless you really enjoy rags-to-riches type stories a LOT, enough to overlook the flaws.

Rating: 2.5

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