on July 2, 2011
[UPDATE: After this review was initially posted, the author has had the book professionally edited and re-released. In my opinion, the book is now completely deserving of five stars, and I am updating this review accordingly. I would gladly give the author another five stars for the absolutely superb job he did of flawlessly handling of the reader reviews posted here. He has earned my avid readership, and my sincere thanks for turning an excellent story into one that I can now enjoy re-reading to my hearts content.
Following is the review as I originally wrote it.]
Excellent plot, with a refreshingly unique style. With so many cookie cutter writers in the eBook universe now, it's nice to see a new author that doesn't copy his style or technologies en mass from the prevailing popular authors of the military sci-fi genre.
I would recommend this book without reservation, were it not for the annoying and ever-present grammar, punctuation and typographical errors. I realize that I'm only paying $3 for the book, but that doesn't mean that I don't expect a finished product. But as distracting as these things were, the story was an excellent read and kept me hooked until the very end. With the help of an editor, this author will have an awesome career ahead of him.
on May 9, 2011
I loved this book. It started out a little slow, but picked up quickly and the combat scenes were very enjoyable. Reminded me in places of David Weber and John Ringo's works, and since I love those too, I quite enjoyed this. It was an interesting take on military space technology that I haven't specifically seen before so that was fun as well. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. It had a preview for the sequel, and I already plan to get that when it comes out. I specifically got the kindle app for this book, and don't regret it for a moment. There were a few minor typos, but I run into just as many in some so-called professional novels, so that wasn't a huge turn off for me.
First, I think I should address the "remastered edition" question. I looked through the old reviews of this book before I selected it to review and noted that many complained about the lack of editing, bad grammar, repetitive word usage, and so on. It is my opinion that the editors of the "remastered edition" have successfully eliminated most of those issues. I don't have much tolerance for poorly edited books and I didn't experience any heartburn over the editing of this volume. I never once considered throwing it against the wall in frustration.
Into the Black: Odyssey One has all the elements of a good, old fashioned space opera: a heroic captain, a faithful and competent crew, aliens (both good and evil), spaceships, and big honkin' space battles. I thought that the book had a bit of a retro feel, taking me back to a period of time in the 1970s when I spent about a year reading nothing but sci-fi, with a heavy dose of space opera.
My only real criticism of the book is that feels flat. The characters weren't quite fleshed out. I liked them well enough, but didn't fall in love with them. The space battles didn't quite manage to evoke the tension that keeps you turning the pages well after you should have gone to bed. I didn't *feel* the loss of crew members and ground troops. I wasn't deeply dismayed and horrified by the devastation caused by the Drasin.
As you can tell by the fact that I rated this book 4 stars, I did like it. I enjoyed reading it. It is not perfect, but the strengths outweighed the weaknesses for me. The ending of this book leaves things open for a sequel or two (or more). I liked this book well enough to read the next one and well enough to recommend it to fans of this genre.
on August 18, 2011
I went into this book with full knowledge that it needed editing. It said so on many reviews, plus any book under five dollars on Amazon right now is pretty much self published. I read a lot of these books for budget reasons and can almost always overlook the little inconsistencies and grammar mishaps. This book was different. I tried, I really did, but after the main character smiled for about the 112th time, I gave up. Here is a synopsis of the first 10% of the book: The captain smiled, he smiled, suppressing a smile, smiling inwardly, he smiled, he smiled, he held back a smile, smile, smile, smile, etc.... Among all the smiles there were two grimaces and one twist of the lips. I am not kidding, EVERY time a character was described before/after they talked or thought it was a smile. I am estimating about 60 to 80 references to smiling in the first 50 pages, no exaggeration! I would have thought that the author wrote all of the 5 star reviews himself except they would have read "I smile as I recall smiling each time I read about the Captain smiling, anticipating smiling as I turned each page, holding back a smile until I couldn't help but smile." If for some reason you can get past all the smiles, the writing is so shallow and clunky that I'm not sure if I could have gotten through it anyway. Don't wast your time or money on this, just move on the next book and......smile.
on July 28, 2011
Several reviewers have commented on the lack of apparent editing, but the writing is worse than that. It's not simply unedited, it comes across as amateurish. It's as if the writer was just dashing his story off in an email, and never went back to look at his own prose. I almost never put down a book, but I couldn't make it past the first chapter of this one.
on January 23, 2013
This was a huge disappointment for me. It mostly reminded me of fantasies I had as a 12 year old boy who had just discovered science fiction. This book manages virtually every old cliche: Steely-eyed military protagonist, mysterious yet beautiful alien woman, merciless insectoid aliens, improbably convenient physics, etc. I particularly liked the part where the "eccentric genius" linguist manages to decipher the unknown alien language fully in a matter of hours.
Do yourself a favor and give this one a miss - I wish I had. There's far better science fiction out there. There's even far better military oriented science fiction out there.
Evan Currie's "Into the Black: Odyssey One," a re-edit and re-package of Odyssey One (2011), according to Cleigh Currie (see discussion here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/forum/cd/discussion.html?ie=UTF8&cdForum=Fx376GGZL25AFA0&cdThread=Tx25E3DQ888YYJP), is not exactly David Weber, but then not much in the sci fi universe is for those of us who enjoy the best of military sci fi. Most definitely the description of the book as "a first-rate military science fiction epic that combines space opera and modern storytelling" is stretching things just a bit, and I'm being generous.
The story begins in the years after World War III, which took place as one might expect between and eastern and a western bloc. The protagonist, Captain Eric Weston is a fighter pilot who because of his heroics in the war has been promoted to captain the NAC (North American Confederation or simply `the Confed' and comprised of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) ship Odyssey for a voyage of exploration into deep space (I should mention this is not exactly Star Trek either).
The explanation that Weston's "rather public position as the flight leader of the Archangels had put him on the short list to captain her" doesn't really explain why a fighter pilot is the best guy to captain a huge new prototype ship with an experimental drive on a voyage of intergalactic exploration. One would expect him to take command of a smaller ship first, or perhaps a staff position or perhaps command of all fighter defenses in the NAC. Certainly there must be officers who outrank him or have seniority. The reasoning seems to be that he is the hero, ergo he gets the ship, which isn't exactly how the military works.
In any event, Weston arrives on aboard his new command and takes it into space. One doesn't find the crisp military protocol of the Honorverse here either; it is reminiscent of Star Trek where a more comradely and less formal atmosphere prevails. We are not given any description of the Odyssey when Weston arrives to take command, as one might expect, viewing the mighty new ship from the exterior on his approach, or even when he enters, which would seem another good opportunity. As the ship leaves the vicinity of earth and heads toward Mars we know almost nothing about it beyond a brief description of its drive and that it is now home to Weston's old unit, the Archangels. We know precisely nothing about its actual mission. Star Trek, at least, gave us that information at the opening credits.
These deficits make getting into the novel difficult. By now I was only on page 22 and over 500 pages to go. I found myself hoping that things would pick up once they left our solar system but I was quickly disappointed. Apparently the Transition drive works something like a Star Trek transporter, at least in appearance and the crew watches their ship disintegrate, and then reconstruct itself at its destination. The Transition drive description again loses in comparison to David Weber's description of hyperspace travel. Science aside, I could feel the sense of wonder and beauty, reading Weber.
Arriving at Alpha Centauri they pick up some sort of distress call, identified as such by the "linguistic telepath" (I'm sorry, I started thinking Counselor Deanna Troi here) through means probably best not explained. It will take the Odyssey hours to clear Alpha Centauri's gravity well but rather than scout it, map it, scan it or even bother to look at it with anything approaching the wonder you'd expect, they sail right off on a 28-light-year journey to the distress signal. At this point I had pretty much lost interest in the entire enterprise (pardon the pun).
Things just seem sort of random, lacking any real internal consistency. For example, upon learning of the distress call Captain Weston asks his XO, "I don't suppose anybody we know is out there?" How could there by anybody they know out there, 28-light-years away, if as seems the case, they are the first such ship to leave earth? Do you really want to sound that stupid in front of your subordinates?
By page 56 I knew I had had enough. Arriving on the scene, the Captain decides he IS Captain Kirk and that his primary responsibility is not his own ship and crew, or even the mission (whatever that is) and that he can go running off in a shuttle to perform a rescue operation and let others worry about his responsibility. And what does he find? A pretty black-haired girl. I mean, look...nothing against Star Trek here. I enjoyed Star Trek. But this isn't supposed to be Star Trek - it's supposed to be a "first-rate military science fiction epic." Sadly, old-school space opera seems to be the primary element of this tale and not particularly well-written old school space opera. This whole thing was completely predictable. You knew if there was no pretty officer on the Odyssey that the first thing Captain Weston would do was find one.
No, Honor Harrington this is not. And it's not as though the writing is any great shakes either, as I said above. It's very light on descriptions and motivations. We don't know much about Captain Weston by page 56 and even less about his XO or any other crew members. We know next to nothing about the Odyssey itself and its capabilities (it took on fuel before leaving earth, but what kind of fuel? Reactor mass? What?), and still nothing about their mission, which seems to be along the lines of gallivanting around on the whim of the captain. The dialogue is not terrible but it's not great either and to be honest, the crew does not sound (or act) particularly military to me. Weston's XO is more his "friend" than his XO and I'm sorry, I wouldn't want to see my captain "slump" on the bridge in front of the crew. What kind of signal does that send? My seven-year-old would do that but I don't want my captain doing that.
I honestly can't find a single good thing to say about this book except the premise - space exploration. It should be full of wonder but there is no wonder described in this book, either from the author's third person perspective or in the thoughts of the humans who are experiencing it. Captain Weston's last thought on page 60 is "Command sucks" - unfortunately, so does this book.
When you see remastered or repacakged you assume this was a fairly successful book with some modifications to enrich or enliven the book. What you get instead is what feels like a self published book fixing a ton of typos that annoyed the first group of readers trying to get through this sci fi dud.
There are several reasons why this one really misses the mark. First is the writing itself. It is very amateurish and simply written. You know the captain is going to destroy anything he meets when he eventually ventures out in to space. You know the characters will act a certain way with their stereotypical cliched statements and plot sequences. You know humans from Earth will of course be some tough take no prisoners war mongers who take galaxies by surprise. There isn't really anything too real feeling about the plot and characters, not to mention the boring dialogue scenes to recommend this to anyone.
** Spoilers. Finally the book itself. When planet Earth's first interstellar voyage just happens to stumble upon a recent battle, and just happens to save their first alien you know something is off. What is the liklihood that you'll jump light years away and, wait, Captain we have a reading, Aye Aye. Then, to make matters worse, they save a human? Huh? Oh yeah, there are other human colonies out there populating the galaxy, and they didn't know about us and we didn't know about them. Moving along, they jump in to a system, see a major engagement going on between two fleets and know that the human fleet will just get annihilated, so what happens? Oh the Captain wants to not get involved because it isn't his battle. So he waits until all his possible allies are dead and gone before he finally says okay, I'll fight now. Why would anyone wait until the whole human fleet is blown up before deciding to finally join the battle? Lastly is the semi annoying feel of a space vessel immensely underpowered with technology so small that it wouldn't even rate up against the other vessels, but by golly it is manned by men and women from Earth, so of course we'll come in and take on 3 ships in one battle and win, then take on 6 enemy ships in another battle and win. Then we'll also send our special forces in and completely annihilate the aliens trying to conquer the planet. End Spoilers **
There is a lot to the plot and story that makes no sense at all, which when added to the way the characters are developed and you have a subpar book at best. There were a few fleeting moments, if ignoring everything else, that the battle scenes were interesting, but they were oh so predictable that even those aren't enough to bring this up to two stars. I wish I could have liked this. Maybe better character development, maybe change out the alien life forms to make the plot bigger, and maybe change the one ship fleet to a multi ship fleet and the story may become better. But these are a lot of what ifs. I would not recommend Into The Black.
on April 4, 2012
I want to correct something from the first. This review is not about the Remastered Odyssey book. It's about the original. Why am I placing this review here? Because there's no place to review the original work. It's gone. Please keep that in mind when you read it.
I couldn't finish this book. I got about 100 pages into it, said, "I have better things to do with my time," and gave up. The problems with this book are so numerous it's hard to know where to start. For example, the guy doesn't know how to add apostrophes to indicate possessive nouns. For example, he had no sense of where commas ought to go in the prose. His most telling passage occurs in the Medical Lab where the Doctor asks a question and the Captain replies, "Simple Doctor, yada yada." It was obvious from the context that the Captain was not attempting to insult the Doctor, but a professional would laugh at the foible and a first-year English student would wonder why the Captain called the Doctor simple.
I found the characters to be poorly thought out, and stereotypical. Mr. Currie's understanding of military culture was less than complete. Lieutenants do not stand watch on monitors, petty officers do. Officers (even ensigns) manage, enlisteds are the guys who watch the hardware. And on large ships with large crews, the Executive Officer does not stand watch, period. He (or she) spends his time executing the orders of the Captain. And this crazy idea that a captain can go where he wants when he wants on a maiden voyage was just beyond the pale. It just doesn't happen that way. Star Trek notwithstanding, no ship, regardless of newness or age, just decides to go somewhere because the captain is curious. And I'll say it again because I found the notion so ludicrous...especially not on a maiden voyage.
Mr. Currie, if your "remastered" book is significantly better than the original, then I would highly recommend that you ask Amazon to provide it free of charge to those of us who bought the original. Maybe then we will decide that you have improved enough to buy more of your stuff. Right now, your book lies on my shelf next to "Plan Nine from Outer Space" except that there is no "so bad that it's good" proviso attached.
on May 27, 2011
I really enjoyed this book. It comes across as a combination of "Starship Troopers", "Star Wars" and the middle "Star Trek" all rolled into one. In fact it almost appears as a updated version of "Starship Troopers". I found it very hard to put down as the plot, the action and description of the characters is great.