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A Sword Into Darkness Paperback – August 16, 2013
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About the Author
Thomas A. Mays (Tom) is an 18-years-and-counting veteran of the US Navy, working as an officer in the surface fleet aboard destroyers and amphibious ships, as well as teaching and assisting with research into electromagnetic weapons and ballistic missile defense. He has two degrees in applied physics, but his passion is writing (he tries not to let what he actually knows get in the way of telling a good story). The author of several short stories in both print and online magazines, this is his first published novel. Tom usually lives wherever the Navy tells him to (currently North Carolina), making a home with his lovely wife, three beautiful kids, and an insane Hawaiian mutt. Tom's blog, The Improbable Author, can be found at: http://improbableauthor.com/
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Set in the near future, one man recognizes a change in the color of the star Delta Pavonis for what it really is, the signature of an alien star drive heading for Earth. Unable to convince the government, he sets out to do what he can. The early parts of the novel deal with developing the technology that will enable the Earth to do something about it (being that there is a spaceship on the cover, I don't think I am giving away too much :)). From there things get interesting.
The space battles are tense, and to fans of pure military sci-fi, might go a bit quickly, but I don't believe the author ever intended them to be the center of the action. Rather they are necessary to moving the plot forward. Tension is built and sustained in other ways. All of this makes for an enjoyable novel. One of the better independent science fiction novels I have read in the last year or two. Definitely worth the relatively modest price. I will definitely be looking forward to the sequel and will probably re-read this in a year or two.
That said, when this book came to the top of my Reading List I downloaded to my Tablet and began reading. Right away I noticed a familiar theme, the "First Contact" theme. It's been done many times, but this one had a tiny twist, the "Foreknowledge" twist. One that has been used before, just not that many times, nor in this way. Good, I thought.
Then the author began a new section - a Naval battle at sea. As I'm reading, I began to feel myself on the Command deck, watching the battle enfold on viewscreens surrounded by techs at their consoles. It was absolutely thrilling, reading, and experiencing, the author's description of the battle and its aftermath. I was hooked.
From there, the novel picked up speed, introducing new characters and new inventions. Sometimes in original ways, other times in variants of old ideas. Which led us to the novel's all important climax. Was it great? Was it good? To me it was in fact good, very good. But I kept feeling that the author left something out, or changed something at the last minute, and because of this, a novel that was almost stellar, was not.
Perhaps the ending came too fast, perhaps the last battle was won too easy, or perhaps the author put too much of an ethnocentric spin on it. That could be, but "A Sword Into Darkness" is still a heck of a read, and one of the best first novels that I've ever had the privilege of reading. Overall, I very much enjoyed reading it, and I will be looking forward to reading the sequel.