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1: V & A Shipping (Volume 1) Paperback – January 16, 2013
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I think the thing that threw me off with the book was the characters and the dialog. The characters seemed more of stereotypes and came off flat. The dialog reflects this. As an example - things that should have read as explosive arguments came across like the characters were doing it for the sake of doing it, as opposed to actually being passionate about what happened. The brooding teenager who was fixated on a record (so much so that he spent 3 weeks repairing a record player to listen to it), didn't blow up when his mom scratched the record and ruined his work at the moment of his expected triumph -- instead he had what could best be called a minor argument before he rationalized leaving (over his parents weakly voiced objections). His subsequent encounters provided more of the same.
Some of the characters in the book also came off more as caricatures than as well developed characters to me as well. The Sheriff, as an example, seemed a shallow copy of Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit (perhaps the depth was supposed to come from the reader already knowing that character?) It seems like more of the story could have come from that source as well (24 hours for a beer run?), though I didn't make it far enough to find out.
I bailed at 40% -- couldn't keep my eyes open anymore while reading late in the evening, and when I got back up in the morning, I didn't feel compelled to pick V&A Shipping up again. Perhaps this would do better with a Y.A. audience than it did with me, but it isn't one I'd recommend.
V&A Shipping is something of a hidden treasure. A bit like an 80s adventure movie -- you know the type, where the kid from 'today' gets whisked away to some crazy adventure -- spliced with space opera.
It's a good combo. A handful of well fleshed out characters bouncing around inside a shipping vessel in space, pursued by unwanted company and intwined in something none of them quite understand, all while deliveries are on the line... Just ripe for the picking.
And J.R. Murdock does a great job weaving us a tale with this setup. The characters are lively, the dialog excellent, the action, well, actiony. It was all balanced really well -- I got some character background when I wanted it, some fleeing through space when it was needed, humor to break up the serious stuff, etc.
The book also avoids the standard tropes we have all seen before. The female crew member doesn't need your help, the main character isn't immediately *the best at everything OMG how amazing good thing he's here*, the captain isn't suave and tough and seducing green alien women. Everything was fresh, and I enjoyed how it all meshed together.
If space opera, interstellar shipping, narrow escapes from pursuit, and creepy giant spider people sounds good to you, then this is your book!