This anthology is everything I would expect and more. Each selection not only fits into the genre of “space opera,” but also correlates to the theme of persons and/or places that lie on the fringes of the mainstream. At Galaxy's Edge is thereby quite a fitting title. Among its twelve stories, nearly every space opera reader will find more than a few books that suit their tastes, and possibly great new leads on new material.
As an anthology, I can't use my standard form for reviewing this book. So the following is a brief overview of my favorites (in order of printing). An excerpt containing a full list and descriptions can be found on Amazon.
I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The Good Food – Michael Azell
Far removed from the glory days of past, decorated marine Jensen has been dispatched on a less than exciting mission: investigate an unexplained loss of vegetation on a seed planet. All he had to do was voyage, collect samples, and return. At least that was the plan. Certainly a boring mission considering the planet's only life is the plants and small bugs which had been placed there. But, a motion alarm and a jittery K-9 would suggest otherwise.
The Epsilon Directive – David Bruns
The United Earth Federation had won the war against an alien race known as the Scythians, but the danger of resurgence dictated that winning was not nearly enough. Hence why the Epsilon Units, also known as “Eraser Squads,” were directed to continue their methodical tracking and extermination of the remaining Scythians. One member of such a squad is Tom, who is nearly a conscientious objector but regardless enlisted for the sake of family traditions. When he finds his current target being shielded by humans, his notions of right and wrong rise to the surface when he makes decisions which contradict his unit's mandate.
Second Place – Nick Webb
It has been many years since the first men set foot on the surface of Mars. In the intervening time, many others have followed in the effort to colonize Mars, and Frank Bickham's bitterness about being the second to do so has fully matured. That is, if such pettiness could ever be described as mature. But there is still one first on Mars that hasn't been achieved. Frank intends to be the first to die there. Stage an act of heroism and die in a blaze of glory is a rather simple plan. But Frank finds that the will to execute can be complicated in ways he never imagined.
Procurement – Adam Quinn
Very few people appreciate the complexities of bureaucratic process. Then again, most only see intentional obfuscation and hindrances, while their inexperience does not value the possibilities of exploiting such complexities. The Meltian Republic is dominated by this process, and is where Captain Brook operates the Interstellar Emergency Service. An agency dedicated to exactly what the name would imply. That was, until she destroyed her ship in the latest mission. Brook must now navigate the red tape and save her agency before a conspiracy shuts her down.
Elvis Has Left the Building – Caroline A. Gill
To complete the journey to a distant planet, starship Epsilon Pi-15 has been staffed with five pilots. Each pilot is to complete a 5 year shift before waking their cryofrozen relief pilots. With only an Adjunct Human Interface for companion, the pilots become threatened by the insanity brought on by isolation. Multi-Global Corporate thought this plan was sound, or at least worth the gamble to save share prices. Their reliance on human input was there greatest mistake, and the robot Rora knew it. When one captain plunges over the edge of reality and begins the destruction which would compromise the mission, Rora decides upon a course of action which is barely permissible by her key protocol: do no harm to humans.
Spoiler Alert: The Vrai Domicile is a second in series. Certain details of The Sixth Domicile will be in the following review.
Q437B, known as “Q” by only her Grandmother and B, had felt the open air and the sun on her face. She had restored that which she was deprived of since birth, choice. Her example, of love and happiness by those choices, sparked dissension amongst the residents of the Domicile. In doing so, she had cast her entire fate into the wind.
The Elders of the Domicile would make sure she would pay with her life. As Q is being dragged to the Muerte, the execution chamber reserved for incurable dissenters, she is actually somewhat relieved to have had some true happiness in her existence before reaching the end. Only in her last moments does she see the end result of her actions.
Being unwilling to die with the mark and method of her subjugation, Q removes her mask in defiance. This ignites the observing crowd. Q is dazzled by a sea of beautiful faces, their removed masks showing a multitude of skin tones, as they shout “Down with the Domicile!” This is the last she hears before being plunged into darkness, to her death. Seeing the beginning of the revolt, and knowing that her sacrifice enabled it, made the short end to her life feel well worth it.
The Elders, in all their “graciousness,” have deprived both Q and the dissidents. Q would not be having a short or merciful end; they had other plans for her. Q suspects that the resistance has lost momentum because the Elders have kept her alive. What else would they need her for?
Waking in the foreign landscape of the Vrai Domicile, Q's selfish desires war with a more pressing need. She also tries to determine the allegiances of the people pushing her in an undesirable direction, with only “not everything is as it seems” as a hint as to what she should be doing and who she can trust.
A digital edition of this book was provided in exchange for a fair review.
What I liked about this book
Like the first in this series, I enjoyed the provocative social narrative and visceral details. Click HERE to see the review of The Sixth Domicile and for more about the author.
Improved Writing Skill
In reading The Vrai Domicile it is evident that Ruggles has grown as an author. This is not to say that The Sixth Domicile was in any way a poor writing. The word selection shows a greater maturity as thoughts and meanings are not only given with precision, but potently convey implications. As Q became aware of the happenings outside of her once narrow perspective she became less obsessive and cyclical with her thought patterns. At least this is what I had assumed about the apparent redundancy of the first book. While it is unknown whether the repetition was intentional or not, The Vrai Domicile breaks free of this tendency and serves as a developmental milestone for Ruggles and/or Q.
Whether it was physical training, the operation of weapons, or the thoughts that can be created by sterile environment, Ruggles has given consideration to these aspects.
When Q was getting a crash course on Guerrier (soldier) training, I was taken back to my own days in military service. The burning muscles, people vomiting during a hard run, and the mental precipice are all very familiar. Given that she had never trained before, her experience was even more believable.
While her weapons training did not go into great detail, the parts which were included are the very things I would expect during pistol training. Such as stance and sighting. Other details, such as the trigger still being able to depress with the safety on, were nice to see.
The inside of the Vrai Domicile could be described as sterile. Everything from the ceilings and walls to the furniture is white. Even the people and their clothes are described by Q as smelling “sterile.” This sterility is employed as a means of psychological conditioning. This bland monotony stifles the evocation of creative thought, while the suppressed scents goes further to strip individuality. I found myself readily able to relate to her reactions to this environment.
I had before referred to this as an “Underdeveloped Climax,” but in this instance I see it's complete intention. So often in the everyday life one can attempt to be prepared and anticipate the moment at which action is required, only to find that a moments notice is all the warning they may have. This is true in Q's case. The ending is not as rapid as the first, but it definitely takes a sudden plunge into a complete adrenaline rush after Q makes a somewhat unexpected decision that forces everybody into action.
What I disliked about this book
This was a great cliffhanger, and I am miserable because of it. While it is a positive attribute of any book in a series, I still dislike it. So it is being mentioned, because the anticipation is agonizing. Spoiler: At the end we are left with a few motionless bodies, and enough blood and gunshots to be certain that at least one or two are dead, but no indication as to which.
I will admit that it was rather late (yes, this kept me up) when I read this part, so that might have played a part in my following criticism. In the middle of the dream scene I went back to the beginning of the chapter make sure I hadn't skipped over a page because it was somewhat confusing. But, I suppose dreams rarely make sense.
Get your FREE and amazingly priced copies while they are available! This deal won't last. What's the big deal for? The anticipated conclusion to an amazing trilogy, of course! Yes, I will write about it eventually. Don't judge. :P Unbreakable is available for preorder, and is slated for the release in just two days!
As a historical figure, Zenobia's tale is found in a variety of accounts. Unfortunately, as is often the case, her story was subjected to sensationalism and socio-political propaganda. This process has imbued her with certain unrealistic qualities, and fails to provide insights into the aspects which humanize her. Daughter of Sand and Stone is a vibrant and gripping interpretation that breathes life into a once otherwise depth-less and contrived character.
Born in the city of Palmyra, the center of Roman trade from the east, Zenobia is the ambitious daughter of a tribal chieftain. While this fact affords her a measure of status, it cannot remain so, as she is seventeen and unwed. Is her worth to be determined by whatever man she is tied to? She would like to believe that the gods think otherwise, and that her destiny lies beyond a “woman's place.”
Early in her story, she has a struggle with her camel which she affectionately names “Feather.” As she attempts to force her mount to obey, and fails, she then persuades him through bribery. Zenobia's continued adventures seem to be somewhat underscored by this lesson. This connection is hinted at toward the end when she must leave Feather behind: "She senses that to part with him is to part with everything that she once was." When one can understand the desires of another, that knowledge can be used to master them. Usually.
What I liked about this book
If my daily responsibilities were fewer than they are, I could certainly have read this book in one or two sessions. I admit to staying up far too late on every night I had occasion to read it.
Imagery and Environment
Hawker creates a saturated world. The first chapter goes into fine details, some of which might otherwise be taken for granted in daily living. This includes the experience of visiting a climate one is not accustomed to, and the kind of scents (like death) which forecast an event to come.
Depth of Characters
Zenobia's human motivations, as typically unmentioned in historical accounts, becomes the story. Though backdropped by the events of the Palmyrene rebellion, these epic characters are still just people. Nearly every character had a real life depth to them. A remote and faceless antagonist becomes relatable. Rigidly stoic figures collapse in privacy. Even unnamed children conveyed individual emotions and motivations through nothing but their actions and behaviors.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical references.
What I disliked about this book
The first chapter was immersive in a number of ways, but it also felt like a bit too much backstory and context was being given in that space. Being presented as an aside during the opening scene, it was somewhat disruptive to go for several paragraphs before returning to present events. I cannot say how to remedy this as stretching the information out would delay the start of events.
About Libbie Hawker (from author's website)
I'm the author of nine novels (and counting, at a rapid pace.) My primary writing genre is historical fiction, but I love to read across all genres, and I have plans to try writing in other areas over the coming months and years. But I will never be able to give up historical fiction entirely. I'm a bona fide history nerd, and those fascinating true tales from humanity's past keep sucking me back in.
I was born in Rexburg, a small town in Idaho, and currently live on San Juan Island, though I've also lived in Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, and in Salt Lake City, Utah. I love getting out into nature -- I'd rather hike, camp, or sail the nearby San Juan Islands than do just about anything else. I try to bring my appreciation for nature into my writing by including the rich sensory details of setting, which make you feel like you're "really there."
My influences vary widely, and aren't limited to other novelists. I'm drawn to poignant story and creative, rich use of language and character wherever I find it. Some of my biggest inspirations include Hilary Mantel, Vladimir Nabokov, the poetry of Michael Ondaatje, the lyrics, rhythm, and melodies of Neko Case, and the work of mixed-media storyteller Chris Onstad.
I used to pursue major publishers, and worked with two literary agents on two separate occasions. However, in 2011 I realized what a great opportunity self-publishing presents to authors, and I jumped in with both feet and haven't looked back. "Going indie" enabled me to quit my day job and write full-time... something I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to achieve if I hadn't self-published.
Now I'm an advocate for self-publishing and enjoy sharing my experience with other authors, helping them find success as an "indie." I truly believe that the advent of ebooks and the rise of affordable self-publishing is the best thing that's ever happened to both writers and readers. There has never been a time in history when so many authors have been able to make a living from the written word. Nor have readers ever before had such easy access to the variety and artistic experimentation writers can offer when they're constrained by nothing but their own imaginations. It's a great time to be reading and writing!
I love books! For most of my life I have been reading them, and giving my insights to friends and family. This blog is for sharing that passion with the many others that love books too.