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Star Realms: Rescue Run (Star Realms Novels) Paperback – October 30, 2016
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Star Realms Rescue Run as a Tie-in Novel is one of the better ones I've read. An interesting mash up of space opera with cyberpunk and spy thriller. The story starts fast and keeps on running until the very end. Our protagonists are caught up in situations far beyond their control, they're on edge. And its one of the few Scifi books in general in which I felt the same tension the characters felt, each action critical, every second valuable, and each one could be their last.
Though its not a perfect work - the prose is is direct, lacking in colorful details. It works for telling the story and that's it. And the setting, well Star Realms (the game overall) is basically a general Space Opera. Most scifi fans would have seen most of the same characters and ideas present in Realms in many other works. These are common flaws in many Tie-ins, alas.
But as I said in the introduction, originality is not the goal for the book, exploration is. And Star Realms is a sci-fi playground, with all the familiar parts there for the fans to create their own Epic Space battles, each game presenting a new story. Every time I play the physical card game, I like to imagine how each card leads to a new part of a tale. Rescue Run does feel like a part of that universe, that one of the many backstories going on while these space battles are happening.
It does deliver in what I wanted for Star Realms: to explore this universe. Rescue Run provides a look into the lives of a smuggler-turned-covert operative and a sheltered Corporate guy. It's their story that eventually adds up to an space operatic ending.
As for the characters, they're pretty archetypal - which is standard for even Star Wars. What makes them stand out are little details that add color and personality to the characters as the tale goes on. Yui, my favorite character, is a combat specialist who does turn out to be rather entertaining in her snark. The AI nicknamed G.O.D. provides some of the best moments of the book. They're not greatly explored in depth, but they are more than what we just see at first.
Finally, the Romance. (No, this isn't a spoiler - the pull quote from Elizabeth Moon even mentions it). I was a bit surprised when the romantic pair begin to actually question what's going on. The characters actually take a bit of time to consider wither or not they're really in love, being played, or if their actions make any sense. I wish I read more literature in which the romantic couple take time to consider their consequences. This is pretty refreshing. While some might question the speed of this romance and the actions of the character after some events, I don't really have a problem with it. After all, love does make people do illogical things - take a look at the news.
One other thing that provides a bit of uplift to the work is that it takes a look at some issues inherent within the setting. The Federation's Corporate mindset and the Empire's war-based economy is explored by the author, making some logical conclusions that could result from such systems. The characters do see the problems and react to them. But for those who worry this becomes another preachy lesson, do not fear. the issues are subtly explored and reacted to by the characters, help drives the plot, and never takes away the focus. The titular Rescue Run is the forefront, and as I said before its a ride.
From a purely science fiction critique, this novel doesn't really provide much new, and the prose isn't Cordwainer Smith. But even then it tells a decent story with a tense atmosphere - in general I give it 3/5. But as a Tie-In Novel, this is a much better book, as if hearkening back to the best times of the old Star Wars expanded universe. For fans of Star Realms, its a journey into a world we've been only given tantalizing hints. And in fleshing out the Star Realms universe, it delivers.
There may be room for improvement in the scientific big ideas aspect. Although the setting and major plot elements were intrinsically science fiction, they weren't any mind-blowing new ideas in there. That's not something you can expect from most novels, but a truly great, classic sci-fi novel would have at least one. So I give this one 4 stars.
It could also have used more polish in the editing department. I ran across a handful of grammatical errors or strangely constructed sentences. That said, I thought the overall story was tightly plotted, with a good pace.
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