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From Video Gamer to Military Space Captain in Several Easy Steps
on May 23, 2016
Spinward Fringe is a book that has good possibilities as an ongoing group of unrelated (or even related) stories in an interesting universe. There are some sequences that stretch credibility more than I would like, but overall it is a fun read. There are some places that could use improvement or tightening up, so it not a great book, but it has its moments.
The universe sector for this story has some free colonies, mostly implied to be some form of democracy. Most of the rest seems to be owned by very large commercial conglomerates, and the impression is given that people on worlds run by them are oppressed in one form or another. The main character, Jonas Valent, did a stint in the military, but now works essentially as a traffic manager for incoming and outgoing space freighters. For him, as for most of the main characters, we get some character background, but quite a bit about them is never answered.
It seems that a large group of friends and acquaintances have managed to hack in to the Academy database of battle scenarios, and are doing better than the real Academy students, or even senior officers. They finally get caught, partly through some software sleuthing, but largely because one of Jason's friends wants to brag about him, so he notifies one of the commanding admirals. Everyone gets into trouble and are offered one of two choices: become a permanent "non-military" citizen, and take whatever punishment the courts will mete out, or get involved with a secret program sponsored by the military with an experimental ship.
Of course, most (but not all) take the ship option, and this is where the adventures start. The crew, led by Jonas, goes off on a hunting mission, not officially sanctioned by the Freeground military. they are to search for and obtain new technology any way they can. They are expected to be gone for several years. Instead, they get into trouble right away, and they become hunted by one of the large conglomerates. The voyages are interesting, though some seem to be unrealistic.
After one refit, we are given the impression that they are now nearly invincible. However, it must be that Vindyne (one of the conglomerates) makes lousy spacecraft, or else Triad (another conglomerate) makes fantastic ships. the differences in the space battles there are night and day.
As I said, the story is exciting in spots. However, a large part of the book consists of meetings, talking, and planning, which could have been chopped by two-thirds with little loss in story. The author also tries to throw in a romantic element, and it never really goes anywhere. It's just a lump of clay that gets poked at occasionally. Finally, watching the group go from a non-military group to military in a seamless manner really makes the reader wonder about them. In addition, it seems like every person on the crew is a selfless do-gooder, which is unrealistic for any group that size.
The writing style is decent, though with the meeting segments and the talking, that slows down the pace. There are three homonym issues that appear throughout the book: lead<>led, compliment<>complement, and ordinance<>ordnance. In addition there are a few dropped words, mixed tenses and the like that seem to appear in most e-books.
Even with those shortcomings, this is an enjoyable story, and I think the series has possibilities of being very fun to read.