July 5, 2012

981 words 5 mins read

Book Review: The Frontier Saga

Today’s “book” review is “The Frontier Saga” series. The book is in quotes because I’m talking about all three books as one item. This is because I enjoy the series greatly, but more so due to my fascination with the “episodic books” concept that this series utilizes. I will attempt to refrain from any major spoilers that you wouldn’t find out about in the first few chapters of book #1 (as I would like to give some background).

We meet our stars in "

Aurora: CV-01” on Earth, a bit beyond a thousand or so years in the future. It’s not the super high tech future one normally associates with the year 3000 (and change). The reason for this is that sometime in our near future, when brain computer implants are normal… a computer virus breaks out. Not just any virus, but a “biodigital plague”. Basically it’s a computer virus that can use the brain computers to cause a person to develop a horribly insidious form of (something like) cancer… oh, and it’s transmittable. Within not terribly long, 90% of humanity is wiped out (the remainder being immune, or EXTREMELY lucky) setting humans/humanity way back.

Before this “biodigital plague” struck, humans had reached out to the stars. Not like our pathetic attempts of the 1970s, but actually gotten to other planets and stars and started colonies (on the planets, not the stars). Some were infected with the biodigital plague (remember that ‘insidious’ part?), some escaped. Most people that could, made a run for it.

So a thousand years go by and Earth has finally started to get itself back to its former glory. Just a little while before present day in the story, a “Digital Ark” is found and opened. This Ark contained the sum of all human knowledge (Useful knowledge, not a list of every pokemon — Sorry Wikipedia) including how to build cool (long forgotten) stuff — like spaceships. Now we’re back at “today” (in the story universe) and we meet the stars of our series.

Our four main, loved characters are Nate (the leader), Cam (the organized one), Jessica (the ground pounder/tactical) and Vlad (the engineer). What do they all have in common? Well they all happen to be newbies in the nascent Earth space fleet and they are all assigned to the brand new Aurora CV-01. The Aurora is neither finished, nor does it have a proper crew (beyond a few senior officers and our crew of 100+ newbies). However the Aurora needs to undertake a critical mission to test new Faster Than Light (FTL) technology. While Earth has FTL ships, this new tech promises to tip the scales of war. Oh yea, there are some bad guys out there called the Jung Empire that are making overtures at Earth.

Now you know that no story could be as simple as “They test out the new FTL and it works great” — that would not be very exciting. The Aurora takes the FTL for a spin, runs into the Jung and things go downhill from there. The Aurora isn’t really equipped to fight. The ensuing battle ends up with our plucky band of greenhorns not only stranded FAR from home, but they are also in charge of the ship (the few senior people are promptly killed — they needed to get out of the way for our stars).

While the chances of every senior staff member being killed and a bunch of fresh-from-the-academy kids taking over is highly unlikely, it makes for a good story. That is also where I’m going to end the story (well, the backstory) summary and switch gears a bit. I talked in depth above about the backstory, but that didn’t all come from the first book. Portions have come from Rings of Haven and Legend of Corinair (the second and third books, respectively).

Ryk Brown has written the series in episodic format. This means that each one of the three books is around 200 pages. It’s rather unusual and would be generally impractical to do if one was printing the books. Fortunately for us, writers are no longer constrained by the printed word. These books could be considered “short novels”, but what makes them Episodic is how they are written. Think of the books being just like an episode of a TV show. Each book (episode) is a story, but not the entire story. In order to get the entire story you need to read the entire series (season) of books. You might be thinking that this is very similar to many book series these days and that’s not entirely incorrect.

Most books these days are solid stories on their own, with a solid beginning, middle and end. Additional books are “sequels” but written in that same semi-standalone manner. You could pick up any book in the series and get caught, mostly, up to speed. This is useful because typically you get one need book every year or three. The Frontier Saga books still have a solid story (With a beginning, middle and end) but tie directly into the previous book, and into the next book. It dispenses with a lot of the information repetition which gets very tiring if you’re reading books back to back. The books in the Frontier Saga, since they are shorter and have a much lower barrier to entry (read: No publishing company to dictate things), they are released every few months. Sure, it’s not an Episode a week like a TV show, but it still kicks ass.

You can borrow “Aurora: CV-01” for free, as an Amazon Prime member, so I highly recommend checking it out. If you enjoy it, Rings of Haven and Legend of Corinair keep up the awesome story. In fact Corinair ends at a really exciting point and I’ve been really looking forward to Freedom’s Dawn which JUST came out this week.