Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Evagardian #1
Published by Roc on May 3rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
FIRST IN A NEW MILITARY SCIENCE FICTION SERIES
“I was on a dead ship on an unknown planet with three trainees freshly graduated into the Imperial Service. I tried to look on the bright side.” He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer. Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.
This is a story where the reader gets dropped into the middle of a situation – but so do all the characters. So it very definitely works.
It’s not a good situation, either. One person’s sleeper cell malfunctions, and three others open normally, but for very relative definitions of normal. The dysfunctional sleeper cell belongs to an unnamed admiral, and the other three belong to recent graduates of the military academy, destined for service on the flagship of the Evagardian fleet.
A war has just ended. The Evagardian Empire won, not by force of arms, but because the flagship of the Ganraen star empire crashed into their capitol building, decapitating and decimating their government in a single stroke. This isn’t peace, it’s a surprise cease fire.
But the ship that they have awoken on isn’t military. It isn’t even Evagardian. And it is echoingly empty. The ship has no power, and the four stranded travelers are sitting ducks for whatever knocked out the ship and its admittedly small crew.
If they are to have even the remotest chance of surviving this mess, they have to band together. Even though none of them believe that their nameless “Admiral” could possibly really be an actual admiral, or that he is even on their side.
But he’s the only one of them with the remotest idea of a plan. So it’s follow him or die. Or for all they know, follow him and die. There’s only the slimmest chance at all that every outcome doesn’t end in “die”, but they have to take it. Together. Or certainly die.
Escape Rating A-: For a science fiction story, this one has a very large mystery element. Where are they? How did they get there? What happened to the crew of the ship? And who the hell is this “Admiral” anyway?
The question about the admiral lingers until the very end, with relatively few hints for a long stretch of the story. This is both fascinating and frustrating, because the story is told entirely from the first person perspective of that admiral. And like most of us, he does not tell himself his own name or circumstances within the privacy of his own head. This frustrates the reader no end, but also makes sense – in real life, we don’t think about our own names all that much. We respond to them, but since no one knows his, there’s nothing for him to respond to.
The only hints readers get at his identity are his flashbacks. He has PTSD, not a surprise in the aftermath of an interstellar war, and in those PTSD episodes we start to get a glimmer of who he might be – a glimmer that only makes sense as we learn more about the war and its sudden ending.
The immediate story is a survival journey. This intrepid band of unwilling explorers has a very narrow window to possible survival. Each time they make two steps forward in their journey, they are forced to take at least one step back, as every attempt at a solution also (and sometimes only) brings on more and more challenges.
They are in a place where everything is literally out to get them, and may very well succeed.
As a group, they remind this reader of parties in a video game. (This story would probably make a good video game) There are four and only four people, and they have exactly the skills necessary to make it through, if that is possible at all. Nils is the engineer, he can fix or hack pretty much everything. The entire journey is mostly a series of hacks. Salmagard is their negotiator, in the sense that negotiating usually involves a big knife and a lot of heavy firepower. She’s their tank. Deilani is the doctor and scientist, she analyzes things. She’s also the resident skeptic, never believing that the Admiral is anything at all he says he is.
It also reminded me of a video game in the way that the story compelled me to read “just one more page, just one more chapter” to see what happened next. And next. And after that. I got completely absorbed and just couldn’t stop.
The Admiral himself serves as both leader and trickster. He’s the man with the plan. And even though he is much too young to actually be an admiral, he is clearly a decade or so older than the newbies. And he’s also clearly used to thinking and planning on his feet. What we don’t know is why or how he got that way.
The story in Admiral follows the pattern set in Winston Churchill’s famous quote (about Russia!), “ It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key.” The parts about how did they get to be where the story finds them, what happened to the ship and its crew, and how they get themselves out of this mess supply the riddle and the mystery. The Admiral is an enigma until the very end. And even after.
~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~
The publisher is giving away one copy of Admiral to a lucky U.S. commenter: