My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Review: Refractions

Refractions Refractions by M.V. Melcer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book as earned a place on my favorites shelf after reading through the more that 400 pages in one sitting.

In the near future (approx. 200 years), the world has changed in profound ways as it struggles under increasing human population until a global pandemic kills off enough to give us some time to plan.  The current hegemonies were reorganized with China ascendent on earth with an aggressive American Union that has lost its way and devolved into a quasi Christian theocracy in all but name, while the powerful elites escape to space orbitals owned and run by competing business conglomerates.  The advent of Chinese interstellar engines, a closely guarded monopoly, enables earth to attempt colonizing worlds in other star systems; so the Americans, with Chinese help, build and launch several colonies ships, leveraging cryogenic tech to help the crew through the decades long journeys and keep resources manageable for such a voyage.  The first colony at Bethesda landed and seemed to be doing well when it suddenly goes silent.  Quickly finding out what happened to the 5000 colonists may hold the key to the success of the remaining colony ships, so an international “rescue” is launched to find out.

The world building here was absolutely fantastic, with a hard science feel without the typically long, and potentially boring, tech descriptions that gave everything a natural feel.  That said, this story is almost completely character driven, with just enough action to maintain the dramatic tension.  The main character is an orbital pilot that was recruited at the last minute to replace the second in command for the rescue mission.  As a Canadian, with a Russian brother-in-law, working at the top of a Chinese space elevator in Kenya Africa, she quickly finds her “neutrality” the key to keeping the paranoid, multinational crew of the rescue mission together after the captain dies enroute in a “suspicious” compartment fire.  Everybody is keeping secrets and trying to figure out each mystery is really what drives this story forward … what happened to the colonists on Bethesda … who “sabotaged” the cryogenic chamber where 7 of the crew died and why … what are the secretive Chinese engineers (the only team allowed to maintain the interstellar drive) hiding … and who is the mysterious spy electronically watching over everything.  Each character is broken in some way and this is hinted at or revealed through crew interaction (reminiscent of a good murder mystery).  Some of the secrets are progressively revealed through flashbacks as we get the backstory of why the MC volunteered for the trip where everybody she knows will likely forget all about her before she returns (if they are even still alive by then).  Some become red herrings and feints that totally pulled me in (well done) with some great twists at the end that I didn’t see coming.  There is a light touch on a few philosophical questions on capitalism, human nature, and environmental depredation that, for me, added a lot to the story but are easily skimmed over if that is not your bag.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Augmented #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.