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The Affinity Trap: Book I of the Structure Series Paperback – September 6, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Part postapocalyptic space opera and part male power fantasy, British author Sketchley's debut boasts a striking cover: a beautiful bare-bellied female brandishing a futuristic gun beside a muscle-bound male in a torn uniform hefting a much bigger gun. Former military intelligence officer Alexander Delgado has little respect for his ruthless commander, Gen. William Myson, whose Structure government rules 24th-century Earth. While illegally selling advanced technology to the alien Sinz, Myson forged an alliance with the triple-gendered Seriatt by fathering a child with "conosq" Vourniass Lycern, assigned child bearer to the Seriattic Royal Household. After Lycern runs away to the planet Veshc, home of the cultlike Affinity Group, Myson orders Delgado to retrieve her. Murdering his way to Lycern's side, Delgado finds her "undoubtedly the most enigmatic, mysterious creature he had ever encountered." After sex, however, he discovers he's infected with Lycern's pheromones and thus bound to her emotionally and physically. Sketchley's solid writing drives this plot-based story, but a lack of detailed world-building keeps it grounded to its '70s action-adventure foundations.
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About the Author
Martin Sketchley grew up in Tamworth, Staffordshire. Following a brief but passionate affair with music, he began writing behind a Tamworth market stall at the beginning of the 1990s, and sold his first short story to small press magazine Xenos in 1994. Having worked in retail and then catalogue publishing, he is now a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Birmingham with his wife, Rosaleen, and their two children.
Top customer reviews
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After months of waiting, only 1 review was posted. And by a woman who never really seems,(nor really could possibly have the the time to read everything she reviews!), and always seems to give good reviews, no matter what. So, needless to say, I couldn't count on her.
But still, no reviews from others came. That usually means a red flag. So time went on, and Amazon.com posted the new covers and synopsis of the next two books. Both looked and sounded quite exciting. So, I decided to purchase the Affinity Trap used. Now that I recieved it, and read it, here's my personal take on it.
After reading sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure now for over 35 years - as well as writing it for over 10 - I was sorely disappointed in some areas of this new book series. You can usually tell what kind of book it is, along with the style of writing of that particular author, within the first 50 to 100 pages. By then, you'll know that you are either in for a wild ride, or a sorry romp.
Affinity Trap is kinda in between.
Basically, Sketchley's writing shows major promise. Both in concepts, scope of storyline, and scene setting. Where he seems to lack is in areas such as - character design and clear descriptions, fast-pacing, action sequences, and overall character development.
The opening starts out well enough. I started to feel that the main protagonist, Alexander Delgado, was an interesting character. Delgado is supposed to be this ultra-super-soldier, but he doesn't act like one all the time. He quickly gets too mired down after having sex with a strange alien. The alien race themselves are wholly original. But like so many things in this book, such as Delgado's enhancements, it is way too hazy to fully see or figure out.
After a small bit of fast-paced reading, the story fairly quickly gets under way. Delgado is approached by his near future arch-nemesis, military dictator Myson, told to go on a mission solo to go get some alien woman who is supposed to be birthing his child to establish relations between their races.
OK, fine. But after Delgado crash lands his ship, he too quickly finds this serriatt woman alien with too little mishap. And then, even quicker, he has sexual relations with her. Because of all this easiness of infiltration and having sex with an unwilling woman alien, Affinity Trap falls into its own trap of almost all tension bulding getting blown out the window.
C'mon, no one in this group but the alien woman can see that Delgado took over some alien soldier's disguise? And who or what is this guy and group? Sketchley never really makes it abundantly clear. Like so many things, too much is hazy.
Anyway, although there is really solid scene setting, Sketchley never clearly sketches out his main character, nor much of anyone else really. I really wanted to see what the writer sees in his characters. Without the cover artwork, I really wouldn't have a clue. Too little descriptive prose for my tastes. If Sketchley would've added more there - like he did in his scene settings - fleshing them out more for the reading audience - that would have been a bit better.
But the story itself felt too mired down in sex. Too much sex and not enough action/adventure. Although the sex is pretty well written, very alien-esque, the balancing of that with slick action/adventure never seems to be met. Needs that balance.
I unfortunately found myself speed reading thru most of the book after giving the first 120 pages a close eye read. I really, really, was hoping for a more dramatic and explosive novel. After reading Richard K. Morgan's first 3 novels of Takeshi Novaks - which this one kinda reminded me of - due to its having an ex-super-soldier in a far flung future - one can see why Morgan has lots more reviews.
Sorry, Mr. Sketchley. But with stronger characters and dialogue, along with faster pacing and explosive action sequences, you show yourself to be a possible up and comer of this genre. I loved the fact that you used androids and cyborgs and the like, but I would have liked to've seen a raging battle betwixt the three, or something along those lines. The story just seemed to meander along with not much happening in the action/adventure department.
Actually, I think that's what Richard K. Morgan could brush up on. Action sequences. His are good. But not great. Nor enough of them. But his prose is so strong in the dramatics of his characters, and his pacing so bloody well done, one is never bored. But if he could write in more awesome space battles, such as the likes of Matthew Stover and Ben Bova, back in his Orion series writing days, then it could've been that much grander and fullfilling of a read.
Hopefully, Martin Sketchley, like a lot of first time writers, is just taking time to get warmed up. I truly hope so.
My advice - don't waste your time
When Lycern flees to Vulsc, the home planet of the Affinity Group, Myson orders Delgado to bring her and the baby to him as he believes their presence will secure the alliance as he anticipates an intergalactic war exploding. Delgado sees this as the first step to destroy Myson. What he never expected was the attraction to his prisoner, who after sharing sex has infected him with her secretion assissius that makes him emotionally and physically dependent on her for his release.
The descriptions of a toxic earth in which those of wealth and power live above the crippled surface where the masses reside feel genuine and the other species in the galaxy are developed enough so that they appear real. Especially intriguing is the close look at gender identity in light of the Seriattic species, which also leads to sex as a key ingredient in the exhilarating plot especially as Delgado finds himself in "bondage" to Lycern. Not for everyone, this is a dark science fiction thriller with extremely close encounters of the fourth kind.
This book had an intriguing premise and I kept going with the hope that it might get interesting. It did not. The main character is supposed to be an excellent soldier, but he blunders straight ahead without tactics. I like a lot of military science fiction, but the military angle is disappointing. The potential political and personal dramas are also not played out. The character development is superficial and cliched.