The Plague is an entertaining and generally well-written science fiction story about a future where humans are a plague on the universe. It has all the elements that sci if fans will love – intelligent alien monsters with squishy tentacles and glistening scales, technological wizardry, deadly space battles, and even a touch of romance and a smidgen of magic.
Earth was destroyed long ago, and now New Earth has gone the same way. Humans are once again shifting planets. I’m unsure of the time frame of this event, because though the author labels this part of the story The Near Future, whether that is near to me, or near to the rest of the story, I’m not sure. I don’t think it really matters that much in this somewhat disjointed form of story telling.
Four characters start in different places during the same time frame but in different, seemingly unrelated, situations, their only link the world they inhabit. But as the story continues, some of these characters come together, and each story informs the other. Added to that are scenes from The Near Future and The Far Future which complete the story by giving us a view over a long period of human future history. Instead of these scenes coming at the end, they are peppered throughout the story. Some may not like this leaping about from character to character and between time periods, but I think it gives the story an interesting dynamic with the glimpses of the future juxtaposed against the events that set the future along that path.
Each character is well-drawn and complex and their individual stories are strong, but the overall plot is not as strong as the individual strands that make it up. Near the end, the threads do start to converge and give of sense of an overall thrust to the story as the characters fall on different sides of a battle between the Defiled and the Assembly. I assume there will be sequels because the individual stories paused rather than ended, and the book clearly set the scene for future developments.
The book is sleek and well-edited, the only difficulty I had with it was the beginning. I simply had a hard time getting into it. The first and second scenes suffered from a lack of description, so I couldn’t get a visual of the setting and very little on the characters. The author didn’t introduce a central character up front either, so I didn’t know who the story was actually about until some way into the scene when I discovered that it was a first person narrative. Even then, I couldn’t figure out who the narrator was and what role he played in the scene. His relationship to one of the other characters only became apparent at the end of the scene. Perhaps I simply missed these things, but I doubt I would be the only one who finds the beginning scenes a little vague.
The second scene also introduced many terms for aspects of the world but without any explanation, so I could only guess what on earth (or not on earth in this case) the narrator was referring to. The author also introduced many characters in a short space of time and before the central character – another recipe for orientation difficulties.
Scene three, however, I found excellent. The main character was introduced up front, the threat was real, the visuals clear, the writing immediate and engaging, and by the end of the scene, I was rooting for Forge and the Flora. Things were looking up. And that standard continued throughout the rest of the book.
The author has used the characters and the world of his cartoon series for this novel, which explains, but doesn’t excuse its early problems. Graphic fiction has pictures, but novels need description to create those pictures in the readers’ minds. Much about a world can be seen and understood in a glance with a picture, whereas it needs to be explained in a novel without associated graphics. The author provided me with the comic as well as the novel, but the novel should stand alone.
All up, if you can hang in at the beginning until things start to come together then the rest of the ride is great.
Ravana O’Brien resumes her role as an intrepid teenage heroine in this sequel to Hollow Moon, which ends with… well, to avoid spoilers, let’s just say you should not count your dead villains until you see their desiccated corpses. In this story, the residents of her home inside a recently crippled hollowed-out asteroid have become refuges on Ascension, a nearby planet orbiting Barnard’s Star. They are not entirely welcome. In fact, they are not at all welcome. Ravana, now a student at Newbrum University, is not there, though. Her father believes she is on an archeological dig on the distant and inhospitable planet of Falsafah in the Tau Ceti system, but when the story opens, she finds herself in a hospital with very unlikely nurses, and she has no idea how or why she is there. Thus begins a well-told tale of mysteries, escapes, cyberclones, aliens, spies, spaceships, and giant spiders. It is a hard-to-put-down book.
I found the prose, editing, and formatting for the digital edition above average. Pacing is also good. Although some of the science is highly speculative, it is not outlandish within the context of the story. A little suspension of disbelief is required, but this is YA science fiction, so you expect that. The story is written with an omniscient point of view from the perspective of several characters, although primarily from that of Ravana. I had no trouble following it, and it was clear who was on center stage at all times. I found the characters quite believable, and I would put Ravana ahead of most teenage heroines I’ve seen in recent fiction. She is brave, intelligent, resourceful, and kind to short grey aliens and rude little boys.
YA science fiction has become something of a rarity these days, and it was delightful for me to find some that was so well done. I highly recommend Paw-Prints of the Gods for YA science fiction readers, but I suggest reading Hollow Moon first.
Full Disclosure: I received a promotional digital copy of this book through Awesome Indies.