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First Contact: Terran Chronicles Universe (Volume 1) Paperback – May 6, 2015
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About the Author
I was born in western Sydney, Australia, in 1965 to my Australian mother and English father. When I was ten years old the family moved to Rotherham, England. We lived there for almost two years, and then returned to Australia. This time we moved to Burnie, Tasmania. At fifteen we all moved again, this time to Sydney. I got married to a wonderful woman, and we had two great children. But in 2001 I was feeling as though something was missing. I divorced, and left the placed I called home. I then moved to Michigan, USA, where a little over a year later I re-married. Over the years I had written many short stories and snippets, but during all this time I was unable to tap into that special place needed to write a full size novel. That all changed in 2010 when I decided to revive an old dream and re-start writing, thus the Terran Chronicles saga was born. The website www.terranchronicles.com has a more detailed biography. I hope you enjoy my work, as much as I do writing it. Take it easy James
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Having recently read a number of new Kindle SF novels on the theme of First Contact and how Earthmen-- despite having no real space program or space ships--manage to get out into space and acquire space ships, this particular story posits an interesting variation on the theme, but the many failures in execution just suck the life out of the story.
In Christopher Nuttall's novel "A Learning Experience," several Earthmen with military training are abducted by none too bright aliens, turn the tables on them and manage to kill them and to capture their ship, in Jeffrey Burger's novel "Wings of Steele" Earthmen flying an aircraft are inadvertently captured by an inter-stellar cruise ship's automatic homing and recovery system, and gain access to space that way, and in Tobias Root's similarly themed "Pattern Ship" one Earthman, who has a metal plate in his skull fashioned from meteoric iron that contains an extremely rare and exotic element, crucial to an alien spaceman's repair of his ship, gains that man and humans access to space.
In "First Contact," and its sequel "Discovery," the first two books in James Jackson's Terran Chronicles series, a fleet of aliens, the Garmin, with what seem to be ambiguous motives come to Earth, preceded by a meteorite bombardment that destroys our satellites, and some of our communication, and military systems and capabilities, they cause widespread destruction to several major cities, they destroy a French aircraft carrier and other military units that do not obey their orders to stand down, likely kill hundreds of thousands and displace millions, but then fix some of the damage caused by what they call a "coincidental" bombardment, impart some sophisticated knowledge, leave a few examples of their sophisticated power generation systems and technology-- meanwhile playing one nation off against another--strong-arming several advanced Earth governments to provide the massive amounts of raw materials and supplies necessary to restock and to repair the alien's combat damaged ships, and to enable them to build a new ship.
Abruptly, the alien's fleet then heads out of (flees?) the solar system (ahead of enemies?), leaving behind their newly created satellite system that will shoot down any human ship attempting to reach space, one seemingly ordinary Earth-man, "George," who has the rare ability to be able to tolerate wearing, to understand, and to command the operations of their virtually impregnable and extraordinarily capable exoskeleton suits, that can interface with Garmin technology, transmute matter, and fabricate almost anything, a couple of such pirated suits and the different "modules" that extend their capabilities, and a huge, weaponless, powerful ship that is missing the alien's massive power system, sitting half completed at a construction site in the Australian Outback. It is this ship, renamed the "Terran," that George and his suit, training, and knowledge enables a coalition of several nations of Earth-men to understand and to jury-rig sufficiently to get out into space, and to explore outward for thousands of light years.
Given more depth, more character development, and more skillful writing this book could have been a real page turner, but unfortunately, this interesting concept did not reach its full potential because of very flawed execution.
The plot was fairly unsophisticated, set-piece scenes on the bridge very repetitive and formulaic, dialog often uninspiring, and the character development was not particularly deep. Adherence to reality and believability are not Space Opera's strong suit but eventually, as enough very implausible and even impossible events pile up, the reader's absolutely essential ability to muster a "willing suspension of disbelief" just evaporates.
Thus, in volume two the small crew of the increasingly battered and crippled Garmin ship renamed the "Terran" is serially attacked, boarded, looted, collides with a massive space station, some crew members are ejected into space or smashed to jelly by acceleration to light speed, George is deliberately poisoned by stowaway Muslim fanatics who also try to assassinate the Terran's leader Cindy, to sabotage and blow up the ship, and/or to poison everyone using an inevitably fatal chemical weapon. Then, later on the crew is infected by a deadly parasite that eventually pops some victims eyeballs out of their sockets as the parasite grows within their skulls. They're just hit by so many calamities that the story eventually becomes ridiculous, resembling "The Perils of Pauline."
Then, there is the portrayal of George, the key, the indispensable man who can work the exoskeleton, who, despite initially being portrayed as just an average guy with no advanced education, manages--over and over again--to save the ship and crew with a brilliant idea or decisive, correct action. It is George, too who-over and over again--also survives what for anyone else would be catastrophic injuries or death.
Of most consequence, however, is the fact that as I read volume two I've discovered that this volume is littered with many more dozens of very annoying awkward and/or incorrect word choices and phrases than was volume one.
In a 2012 response to a review here criticizing these same kinds of errors, the author said that he had had a whole team of editors rework this series. However, massive problems still exist. So many and so basic are these English language and usage mistakes that I'm starting to wonder if this story wasn't initially written in a language other than English, then run through a not very good translation program.
There were also several instance where the story just kind of veered off on a completely different story line leaving me thumbing back a few pages trying to figure out how I got from a character in Manhattan to a special ops team in Korea.
Then there were sections that just made no sense, again having me thumbing back a few pages trying to figure out what I missed. The one I remember the most "Being without a roof, the structure looks very much like a partially built dry dock. With the nearest ocean many hundreds of miles away, the purpose of a dry dock complex is baffling to any onlookers." The onlookers in question are in St Petersburg Russia and Manhattan New York. Now the St Petersburg part is technically true with it being geographically located on the Baltic Sea and located hundreds of miles from an "ocean", but Manhattan is just a short jaunt down the Hudson to the Atlantic.
I have read the other review here stating some of the same issues I had, and also stating the second book is worse with these "errors". I will probably purchase the 2nd book eventually, but will wait a while in hopes these issues are corrected to what I feel is a good story
Aliens arrive on Earth
Aliens and Earthlings play nice
Aliens repair damaged ships and restock supplies.
Boring. Absolutely boring! The only reason I managed to finish this book (I hate not finishing something I paid for) is because it was only 300 pages (not 348 as advertised) and had big print resulting in less to read. Another reviewer said it seemed like a high school kid wrote this. I think a high school student could have done better. This book is written in a very juvenile way. One dimensional doesn't begin to describe it.
One thing I found amusing was the at the beginning the aliens were in a space battle in another solar system somewhere. The planet this battle took place near had astronauts returning to their planet that saw the whole battle. Their names were Dave and Larry. Seriously? I though maybe this was an earth colony but as the story moves to earth it is apparent that it is current time and Earth has yet to get past the moon. people on another planet named Dave and Larry? Seriously? Well it only goes downhill from there. If you decide to get this book and find out I am right please write a review to help forewarn others.
This book should be named "My First SciFi Book" and marketed to kids. After all it was written at about a 3rd grade reading level. Ugh!
James Jackson has done a fine job of creating a realistic story with endearing characters. George Stanton is my favorite by far and I find myself rooting for him throughout the entire novel and wishing more people were like him. The Gamin, Sharz, is also someone to keep an eye out for as he doesn't seem to be your typical alien. I love how Jackson does not use leaders name for the world's government, just titles, leaving the story to be able to assumed to be at anytime in our history.
Overall a great story and I look forward to reading the next in the series.