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Lacuna Kindle Edition
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Sadly, "Lacuna's" flaws outnumber its strengths to such a degree that, while I can't count it as among the worst sci-fi books I've ever read, nor can I recommend it. It starts out with some promise, but soon degenerates into a mess.
"Lacuna" follows the story of Melissa Liao, an officer in the Chinese military who counts herself as one of the survivors of a devastating alien attack on Beijing... an attack that takes fifty million lives. Identical attacks take place in Tehran, Iran and in Sydney, Australia, and all are accompanied by the same cryptic message -- "never again attempt to develop this kind of technology." Humanity's response is not to acquiesce to the aliens, but to build three huge military ships to fight back... and Melissa finds herself helming one of them. With the aid of James Gregoire, the handsome Belgian captain of another starship, and Summer Rowe, a hyperactive and foul-mouthed computer nerd, Melissa sets out to defend Earth from the alien onslaught... but when she finally comes face to face with the enemy, she finds they have far more in common than they realized, and that the aliens have devastating plans for humanity...
The writing of this book is... okay. It's not terrible, but neither is it very good. It reads in a workmanlike manner, serviceable but not particularly memorable. I didn't find any major spelling or grammar errors, or at least none severe enough to jar me out of reading. The author does really seem to like the F-word, however, and while I can put up with it in moderation (I love "The Martian" and "That Bear Ate My Pants" despite both authors using the F-word periodically), but here it's used so often that it ceases to even be shocking, which is a problem in my book.
The characters are, quite frankly, either very bland or thoroughly unlikable. I can put up with unlikable characters in fiction when it serves the purpose of the story, but when we're expected to cheer for or identify with said unlikable character, it gets tiresome. Melissa is, to put it politely, a witch, and while I understand a military officer can't exactly be soft and friendly, it seemed the harsh and angry side of her was all there was. (On a minor note, the story about how she came to have a more Western name despite being born and raised in China comes across as forced and unbelievable.) Gregoire, the obvious love interest, is an utterly-bland character who feels like he stepped out of the pages of a Harlequin romance novel, and Summer... the author was probably trying to appeal to his nerd readers with her, but I wanted to slap her. She was obnoxious, foul-mouthed, utterly disrespectful (I can't believe she could get away with most of her behavior aboard a military vessel, even as a civilian), and constantly wedging references to "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" and the "XKCD" webcomic (!) into her conversation at every opportunity. It was as if the author was beating the reader over the head with this character, going "See, she's a geek, love her!" Sorry, it takes more than nerd quotes to win this nerd over. (For the record, not even the most hardcore nerds are going to put "Han Shot First" on their tombstone, and quite frankly, that joke was old a decade ago.)
The plot might have saved the book, but what could have been an interesting exploration of human/alien interaction soon becomes a generic "Earth vs. Aliens" plot. At first the novel seems like it will be more complex than just "evil aliens out to destroy us," with the aliens having a legitimately good reason for wanting humanity to stop developing a certain type of technology (though the way the story is presented, our technological development is apparently more important than avoiding the destruction of the universe). But it doesn't take long for the aliens to simply want to wipe out humanity just to be evil -- the aliens even gloat about shedding human blood and torturing Melissa for kicks. And while we do see at least one sympathetic alien, I find it hard to believe that said sympathetic alien would betray her kind so easily for humanity's sake, and feel no remorse for doing so. Every other alien that shows up is either cannon fodder or a cackling '80s cartoon villain.
SPOILER ALERT: Also regarding the aliens -- while the scientists maintain their biology is "like nothing I've ever seen," said aliens are essentially just cat people. I'm not even joking, they're literally described as cat people. I'm not asking for "gray aliens" or for something completely bizarre, but it's just hard to take the aliens at all seriously when they're literally just humanoid cats.
I don't think this book deserves one star, as I think the author has a lot of potential and some fascinating ideas, and while his prose was fairly bland, he at least knows his technical writing skills and the writing didn't make my eyes bleed. But all the same, the story feels like a mess, and I can't bring myself to keep reading the series or to recommend it to anyone else. Better luck next time, Mr. Adams...
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