This was my original review of the Ridan version of this book. Now that Mr. Lowell has republished this under his own imprint, I am also posting it here as this is a good book and series:
This isn't your typical space science fiction novel with shoot ups and conflicts against other races or civilizations, but it focuses in on the life of a few lower-level characters as they travel through space. It has some charm and appeal, with good interplay between the characters. If you're looking for the space battles and conflicts that are typically in the best selling ranks fo the science fiction category, you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for a good tale to read, this one should be on your reading list. I'm off to buy the second one in the series.
As a follow-up to the original review:
I have read each book in the series. If you like a coming of age tale under a science fiction banner, I highly recommend you starting with this one and reading them all!
on April 23, 2010
I originally "read" Quarter Share, by Nathan Lowell, in the original podiobook format. I, like many of Nathan's fans, are eagerly awaiting the print release of his fantastic story (and the rest of the 'Golden Age of the Solar Clipper' series) so that I (we) can delve into his fantastic story again (and again).
If I can give you my quick and dirty recommendation: GIVE THIS ONE A TRY NOW!
It is a fantastic story that will resonate with you long after you have read the last word. It is a refreshing break from mainstream, "shoot-em-up and save the galaxy in time for dinner" science fiction, showing us the real, human side of our potentially bright future. If you like classic Heinlein (such as the Rolling Stones, Farmer in the Sky, Citizen of the Galaxy), then this one is definitely up your alley.
Here's my longer, more detailed recommendation:
Quarter Share is not your typical futuristic sci-fi story. It is not a story based on waring nations or individuals bent on conquest or domination, so it does not easily fit into the mold of what many of us have come to expect from the sci-fi genre. Instead, it breaks the mold by concentrating on the life and experiences of what Nathan refers to as the "common man". Truthfully, as I started listening to this, at first I was very sceptical of this type of sci-fi story for the first couple chapters and was very unsure of where it was going. Then without really realizing it, I was fully immersed in the story and found that I was very interested in where Ish (the main character) was going to end up in his life, or at least where he was going to be by the end of the story... and I couldn't stop listening.
It was a strange transition for me--having come to expect conflict and danger and "bigger than life" for the majority of my sci-fi "hero" characters I normally get into--to suddenly be draw so completely into a story about the simple, average, and often repetitive everyday struggles of a common person. By the end of the story, I was more invested emotionally and more interested in the small victories that these common characters were able to accomplish throughout the story than I honestly expected I'd be... in fact, I find that the characters in this story have resonated and stuck in my mind more than most of the other sci-fi books I have read (and I've read hundreds of sci-fi books over the last 25 years). Don't get me wrong, I love a good action oriented hero story set in the sci-fi genre as much as anyone else... it's just that this one is so unlike those other storytelling methods that I thoroughly enjoyed Nathan's Quarter Share as much, if not more, than those mainstream offerings... just in a very different, more meaningful manner.
The story revolves around Ishmael Wang (pronounced "wong" as in "gong"), known as Ish to his friends and intimates, a young man who is growing up on a corporate-owned planet. After his mother dies in a tragic (fateful) flitter crash, Ish is suddenly thrust into the real world when he is notified that he must vacate the planet (since he is not a company employee), forcing him to make some quick and difficult decisions about his potential future. A young man with no real marketable skills (or so he believes) and no idea where his future lies, Ish lands a job as a low level crew member (with a "quarter share" of the ship's profits) on an interstellar solar clipper called the Lois McKendrick. Ish begins to see a brighter future unfold where once he had little interest or premonition of his future, as he begins to learn the ins and outs of shipboard life. The story conveys the normal trials and tribulations of a young sailor on an interstellar trading vessel as he finds his place in the grand scheme of things and starts planning to have an active role in the development of his future... with potentially very lucrative results.
My overall recommendation is to give this story a try, no matter what your preconceived notions of the sci-fi genre are. Leave your normal sci-fi genre expectations at the airlock and travel a bit with Ish, Cookie, Pip, Big-Bad Bev, Mr. Maxwell, and the rest of the Lois crew as they travel the known trading routes in search of profit. This one is well worth the time! You won't be sorry.
on February 8, 2011
I read this book in two sittings, and I have to admit that I did not find it boring as many claimed it is. Yet at the same time I have to agree that nothing exciting happened. There is no conflict, no struggle, no barriers to overcome. It's hard for me to give this book a 5 star rating when it could have been so much better if things did not go so smoothly. In fact, there are a total of two unfortunate events: Ish's mother dying and Pip getting mugged. Everything else that happens is all joy and flowers. The crew are rolling in money, they all get along, drink tasty coffee and eat yummy pastries. The End.
The ship is just, well too good to be true. Yes, the author served in the USCG, and it's clear from some of the descriptions of the ship life that he drew on that experience, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that I have never been on a US NAVY ship on which everyone got along and nobody has any issues. You pack people in such a confined space for months at a time, every issue, no matter how small, gets dragged out to the surface and becomes a public matter and problem.
How much better would this book be if Bev was in fact a total bitch who hated Ish? Maybe she has a drug problem that she is dealing with. Maybe she has a past she's trying to deal with. Maybe eventually she'd get to like Ish...maybe not. What if Pip didn't just trade in legal goods? What if Pip's connections are far from legal? How about if Cookie was less of an uncle figure? What if the captain was just a little bit more detached in what the mess deck greenies are doing? What if Ish constantly struggled with depression and did not feel a near instant sense of belonging on the ship?
After writing this I almost feel like I should give the book LESS than 3 stars, but the truth is that despite the flaws, the book is an enjoyable and easy read and I have moved on to the second book - although with far lowered expectations.
on May 13, 2010
For a long time, science fiction has been the home to epic space battles, evil villains, princesses and lasers. These are great things, and fun, but you have to wonder- There are other stories, right? There are people out there who live real lives, have normal problems, and conquer their own obstacles.
Nathan Lowell fills a gap that I didn't know existed in Sci-Fi. He makes the world seem believable by showing the people who truly live in it. They have alarm clocks and deadlines. They make the engines turn, and make the food for the ship. They make the ship a home, and they make the reader feel like one of the family.
Lowell's writing is clean, clear, and approachable. His characters are likeable, flawed, and well developed. The world is carefully planned and built so that all the elements come together to make the whole story feel . . . true.
For years we've seen the explosive climax of epic Sci-Fi battles. This new form of sci-fi, low key and realistic, may be the next step in sci-fi's evolution. And after reading the book, I sincerely hope this is what the future has in store.
on June 6, 2012
When I started reading this book I really liked the flow and the style and yes, the content, although I agree with my fellow readers that there is no conflict and ultimately no story.
Alas, once again, here we have an author that has not a clue about the units of measurement he uses. PLEASE do not use meters if you have not a clue how to LOOK IT UP although it is so very easy to find!
So here we have a protagonist that is presented as handsome. Yet, he is "a meter and a half" and weighs "eighty kilos". That makes him 4'9" at 176 lbs. His mother is "fifty kilos and barely a meter and a quarter", which makes her 4'1" at 110 lbs. That makes both of them obese, and he is even morbidly obese. And no, at that weight, he will not run on the track easily or even at all.
This kind of negligence makes me feel disrespected as a reeader. Do such lazy authors really think we are all stupid or provincial enough not to notice?
I will not even think about buying the rest of the series.
on August 29, 2011
This story seemed to have a lot of promise, and I'll be honest, the sequels may deliver on that promise. However, this beginning chapter of what seems to be a long saga is as dry and boring as they come. This book single-handedly made me hate the word "Coffee."
There is no conflict other than the main character being incredibly generic, wanting to not be generic, so he studies a lot and makes coffee three times a paragraph. Oh, also, it turns out this generic kid who had no real reason to be, is incredibly smart and everyone loves him and everyone wants to help him. This generic guy suddenly isn't generic, he's a genius about coffee AND everything else about ships and space!
The entire thing reads as if one guy sat in his room, daydreamed about what he would do if space travel were real, all the while forgetting that real life, even in the future, can be incredibly tedious. Even when they finally do something other than either being on a ship drinking coffee or doing their boring jobs, it still isn't interesting. What do they do? They play space eBay. Buy low, sell high. Buy these here, sell them there. Oh, and then they get to figure out who mans the booth! Excitement! And since there is zero conflict in this story, you can probably guess whether or not they made a profit.
There's no fights, there's no incredible tech, there's nothing other than a kid working in a kitchen being loved and studying a lot. For the entire book. Not to mention that almost every character sounds exactly the same. If this is Quarter Share, I have a feeling that Half Share is just going to be twice as much droll studying and working. No thanks. I read for excitement and adventure and suspense and many other things, not so I could be bored with sci-fi.
on December 17, 2011
Indeed, this is a story about everyday life on a spaceship. And it is a nice spaceship. Nice captain, nice crew mates, main character likes his job, even the wastewater on board doesn't smell as bad as one could expect. Many reviewers nailed it; no larger than life heroes and absolutely NO conflict. This means there is no story, only words. They fly from planet to planet; everything is in top shipshape shape. They have emergency drills; all goes well, and the captain complements the crew on a job well done. They study for exams, and ace them, and they endlessly discuss how to buy stuff on one planet and sell it on the next. Captain is happy about that too. I was praying for a little meteorite to upset all that happiness, but in this part of space, there were none. The core of the story is: Guy gets on spaceship and sails from A to B; nothing happens - end of story. If you don't like excitement, e.g. after a heart transplant, this book is for you.
on August 12, 2012
I bought this book full of anticipation - I love science fiction as well as stories about sailing and trading and was looking forward to a good book that contained all of this. I was so wrong.
Essentially the author took a 16th century sailing ship story (which in this case turns out to be boring) and transplanted it into space with little or no care for the implications of this huge change for the story.
1) The book is fairly boring and repetitive. After the first 100 pages or so, the main story line is about trading a couple of belts, fabric, china plates etc. on a flea market. The author fills pages with boring first grade math along the lines "If I buy 20 belts for 10 credits each and sell them for 20 credits, how much profit did I make". There also seems to be no direction where the book is heading in general.
2) While the main character comes over as likeable at first, he does not develop very much through the book and remains fairly one-dimensional and all the other characters are not any better. This is possibly due to the fact that there are actually no real problems or conflicts in the book which could highlight different sides of a personality. In this crew of people that are living together for months at a time, there is no animosity or ill will at all. Everybody likes everyone else. Additionally, despite there being a mixed crew of men and women, there is no sex, jealousy, dating or anything like that - and this although they hang out in a sauna and the gym together all the time and sleep in shared dormitories and share showers.
3) The science fiction side of the book is outright terrible. Just a few examples:
- The spaceship is 20 km long. The other dimensions are unclear, but assuming a height and weidht of 100m square, this would give the cargo of the ship a mass of 200 million tonnes (at the density of water; sometimes, they transport heavier things like ore). So far so good. But the amount of mass an employee (and there are less than 50 on board) is allowed to bring is 20 kg for a junior member. This does not make any sense. Even giving every employee tons of mass would not matter; however the 20kg allotment is a major plot point without which the whole story unravels.
- As a comparison, a modern super tanker is up to 400m long and can transport a couple hundred thousands tons of products ... the spaceship would be 1000 times the size; and the crew is restricted to a few kg of mass; ridiculous
- The space ship uses solar sails, however the author seems to have overlooked that they can only be used to accelerate away from a star and not to accelerate towards a star...
4) The economics the author uses don't make any sense at all. Just as an example, the main protagonist earns about 200 credits or so a months after taxes. And he sells belts at a flea market for 40 credits; anyone up for buying belts costing the equivalent of hundreds of dollars at a flea market? The whole story seems to revolve around trading 5 belts here, 20 kg of coffee there and so on and even the captain of the ship gets involved in this; there is no feeling that the author has any sense that working a space ship like this would involve huge companies and planetary wide economies to make any sense at all ...
5) I could go on and on about this; the challenges the crew faces are trivial - the solutions laughable. Essentially, the success of the protagonist and his main friend all rely on the fact that a seasoned crew of a space ship flying together for decades has not thought about the most obvious solutions to pretty much anything.
All in all, I wish I could get my money back ...
on July 29, 2010
I'm serious with that title to this review.
First the mechanics: the book is available in several formats: print, Kindle, podcast. I choose print being an old-fashioned ink-and-paper book kinda guy. What a find!
The world building, while mostly in the background - unless you count the trading ship SC Lois McKendrick - and you should, I think, since most of the book takes place there or on orbital stations around planetary stops - is very convincing. Character is a real strength. Lowell writes people I understood and cared about from the beginning.
Synopsis (no spoilers): Ishmael Horatio Wang lives with his mother, a college professor, on the company-owned planet Neris. When his mother dies in a flitter crash, eighteen-year-old Ishmael must find a job with the planet company or leave the system, and NerisCo isn't hiring. With credits running low, and prospects limited, his only choice is to enlist as a crew member on a deep space commercial freighter. Ishmael has never been off-planet before but soon finds himself part of an eclectic crew sailing a deep space solar clipper the SC Lois McKendrick, between the stars.
The title of this coming-of age novel comes from the bonus system used on these traders: according to their rating, each crew member gets a quarter, half or full share, with senior officers entitled to double shares and more. As a new crew member Ishmael is entitled to a quarter share.
As I started reading, I thought of Robert A. Heinlein's "juvenile" books, Space Cadet, Farmer in the Sky, Have Space Suit - Will Travel, Tunnel in the Sky, Between Planets and others. That feeling grew as I went on, but I soon came to the conclusion that this book is better than those.
After reading Quarter Share, I wanted something that might be similar to quench my book hunger, so I picked up one of Robert Heinlein's YA novels, Have Space Suit, Will Travel. It is not as good as Quarter Share. The more I think about it, the more comparisons I think of: Ishmael Wang is a lot like young David Falkayn, Poul Anderson's smart, clever trader character. Comparisons to Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson are appropriate. That's darn good company.
By the time I finished Quarter Share I was eager for the next book in the series, Half Share, already available in digital formats and soon to be in print, probably Fall, 2010. They can't put these in print fast enough for me. In my opinion they will become classics of the genre, and deservedly so.
on February 4, 2011
I loved this book when I started it. It has a good pace and good story telling. You follow a young guy named Ishmael who is thrown into a terrible situation when his mom dies and the company who owns the planet gives him 90 days to leave. He can either join the military or find work on a freighter. He chooses the latter and you get to experience ship life in the future first hand as he does his duties and learns what to do to keep a ship going. There aren't any space battles or aliens which is neat, however about 60% of the way through the book it all changes. Ishmael starts running a trade business on the side with a friend. Problem is I didn't really care if I bought something cheap on planet A and it sells for 400% on planet B. This becomes the MAIN focus of the book from here on, nothing else really matters. Then Ishmael starts a trade business with several members of the crew and so he basically is now running a company.
The latter part of the book is mainly about what product he is going to buy on planet A and sell on planet B and how to run his business. Honestly I didn't care how he ran his business or how well mushrooms sold and how cheaply he bought them, thats not story telling, thats how to run a trade network. Most of the good story telling just dies off and it hurts, I really just kept reading because I didn't want to leave the book half done, but it is not the same book all the way through, just fair warning.