Stewards of the Flame

Stewards of the Flame
Published: April 9, 2008
Author's Twitter: @SylviaEngdahl
When starship captain Jesse Sanders is detained by a dictatorial medical regime on the colony planet Undine, he is plunged into a life involving ordeals and joys unlike anything he has ever imagined.


Raises Valid Questions

4 Stars


“Crime is considered illness, untreated illness is crime; ambulance crews are the only police. Dead bodies stay on “life support” forever. Can anyone gain freedom?

When burned-out star-ship captain Jesse Sanders is seized by a dictatorial medical regime and detained on the colony planet Undine, he has no idea that he is about to be plunged into a bewildering new life that will involve ordeals and joys beyond anything he has ever imagined, as well as the love of a woman with powers that seem superhuman. Still less does he suspect that he must soon take responsibility for the lives of people he has come to care about and preservation of their hopes for the future of humankind.”


This book is of the futuristic dystopian variety, yet with a situation that resonates strongly with where we might find our current technology taking us here in the 21st century on earth.  The plot begins well, and is engaging and interesting.  Unfortunately it peters out from the point at which the main character begins his mind training.  There is a lot of dialogue, and it feels like sitting in a heavy duty psychology/parapsychology class.  Everything else that happens later in the book is predictable, and the ending is very abrupt. Which rather than inspiring me to go on to purchase the next book in the trilogy, just leaves me feeling a bit cheated.  Yes, we want to be lead into asking what happens next, but no – we don’t want to finish this story with so much unresolved.


This book is approximately 460 pages in length, and is told from various points of view, usually indicated by a paragraph break and easy enough to follow.  There is a lot of detailed dialogue for roughly 300 of the 460 pages, with bits of action interspersed briefly in between.  The copy editing and proof reading has been done to a good standard, but the plot does suffer from pacing issues.  The ending is abrupt and feels unfinished.


If you enjoy dystopian novels, or are interested in paranormal psychology then you might well enjoy this book.  Although it is set in an off world location in the future, I would not really class it as Science Fiction, it has elements of that to be sure, but not enough to plant it firmly in that Genre.  The narrative raises valid questions for where we find ourselves in this day and age with all of our medical and technological advances and abilities, and the many issues that are arising with regard to individual rights of privacy – especially in relation to the internet and all that that entails.  However, the voice in the story is strongly one sided, and doesn’t furnish us with any alternative viewpoints at all.  So in many ways, it can feel a bit like the reader is being told what to think.  Whilst there are no major structural issues, or editing/proofing mistakes, I do feel that the plot pacing has problems.  It is for this reason I do not feel able to give this book any more than 4 out of 5 stars. 

Life First

Life First
Published: June 13, 2013
Author's Twitter: @rjcrayton
When the government wants to steal her kidney, Kelsey Reed makes the only choice she can: run.   In a world run by survivors of a deadly virus that wiped out 80 percent of the population, life is valued above all else. The government of “Life First” requires the mentally ill to be sterilized, outlaws abortions and sentences to death those who refuse to donate an organ when told. Strong-willed Kelsey Reed does the only thing she can do when she’s told to give up her kidney: run. Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 stars

This is a very well written fiction story that adds interesting fuel to the debate between those that support the `rights’ of the individual and those that put the rights of community ahead of those of the individuals. Should the individual be expected to suffer, even to risk life, for a common good? Should we all, ultimately, be conscript soldiers of society?

The principle character is fascinating, complex, and totally credible. Whether she is actually a hero, a coward, or a genuine conscientious objector, each of us has to decide for ourselves. For me Kelsey was a mix of all three, just as most of us would probably be, depending on the degree and type of cultural indoctrination we had experienced.

The only flaw of the plot was for me the over close relationships of all the principle characters in Kelsey vs The State. This tightness helped drive the intensity of the drama, but it all proved to strain my buy in to its plausibility. Wouldn’t the prosecution have ripped the defence case apart even more effectively than it did as a consequence of the degree of nepotism? I think so.

This is a really good read and an excellent affirmation of competence amongst independent writers. We should all be grateful that the fall of old-publishing through the rise of the net has allowed writers like Crayton to be heard.