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The Trilisk Ruins (Parker Interstellar Travels Book 1) Kindle Edition
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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A xenoarchaeologist who becomes a relic smuggler sounds like an interesting personal story, but over several novels the series becomes a major "save civilization" type of plot and the characters' personal stories are largely disregarded. In fact, McCloskey kills almost all of them off. There is a hint of this in the first book as a couple of guys we've known for a few chapters are summarily exploded. In the series he dangles characters along for several novels, getting to know them really well, before destroying them abruptly. Why then bother to get to know them and get involved in their hopes and goals in life?
The author is very creative at making up aliens and their environments. Too good, and he keeps dismissing environments (sometimes destroying them too) and making up new stuff, sometimes with no relation to the plot. Sometimes major episodes do not further the plot. by the end of the 8th book I was just skimming to find how it ended as none of the writing seemed relevant or interesting.
A final flaw is a personal preference regarding LitRPG (combination of literature and role playing games). I despise LitRPG and will not read it. But it is apparent (only in retrospect) this series amounts to LitRPG, and the author seems to intend to make it explicitly so.
By about the 6th novel we no longer have ANY of the characters we started out with, including the xenoarchaeologist! OK, we actually have a copy of her, an enhanced copy. The original may or may not be in stasis somewhere and may or may not re-integrate any of these memories and might be off having entirely separate adventures for all we know. Her boyfriend is a copy which is definitely missing some memories. And how can anyone argue these copies are substantively the same consciousness or soul? It's not credible.
Each time new characters are introduced to replace ones that have been killed, the series gets much less interesting. The last introduction of the hacker guy who is into RPGs is just dumb. He does very little (wins one battle).
McCloskey toys with a lot of conceptual ideas, like how aliens might differ in how they switch between competition and cooperation. I thought maybe he had a point to make, but after 8 books I realize he just flirts with big ideas and doesn't really have anything to say about them. At that point, my take on the series went negative, I wished I'd never started it, and I edited this review to describe and rate the series, since readers need to know before they start.
JUST THIS BOOK - If you can read this book and stop, it's fairly interesting. The author is very clever with alien environments and creatures. And in this first book they do not become tedious or irrelevant to the plot (later they do). On character development, there is only mild progress. Do not become too attached as some of them are abruptly blown away (even more so in later books). I was frustrated by this, and the general carelessness with which humans approach both aliens and advanced technology. And carelessness of the aliens for that matter.
The technology is absurdly over the top. It is tempting to think the author is going to deliver some grand message, a sort of revision of the fate of the Krell in Forbidden Planet or something, but after reading 8 books I realize he is just wandering.
The characters were pretty good, if not terribly deep, but thoughts and emotions well described without being stilted or superficial. The concept of the ruins was well played, both a good idea, and presented from multiple viewpoints overlapping so one has a chance to figure out what is happening, all the while learning more and more in case you didn't.
The new alien was quite interesting - unstated premises but then consistently executed.
Some hand-waving and magical technology invoked at key points, but not much (I vastly prefer a universe where the rules are well known early, and everything then follows them - to me the definition of science fiction rather than fantasy).
But perhaps the best endorsement (consider I'm working through dozens of free books I discovered existed with the Kindle) was as soon as I finished I hit the "Buy now" button for the next one. He's not Niven or Heinlein but he tells a good story!
The human characters by contrast, seem almost like afterthoughts. And like afterthoughts, they don't seem to have a fully coherent personality. They simply do things with no real motivation visible. Most of the poorer writing is around the human characters as well and I think this is as a result of the author struggling through their passages since they don't have real personalities to rely on while writing their parts. While Shiny the alien has a complete internal monologue letting us understand what his motivations are, none of the human characters has anything like that and so we are left wondering why they make they choices they do 90% of the time. It is ironic that we have a more complete look into the mind of the alien than we do into the human minds we are most prone to understand. It also leads the human reactions to seem flat. When we are told that humanity has never found an extant alien civilization, it sets us up for a universe shattering moment when our protagonists actually meet an alien. Instead, that moment is swept under the rug and just a few "I can't believe we are with an alien" comments are made, but the fact of the alien is largely accepted within moments of first contact.
That being said, the story being told is interesting and I do want to see where it goes. However, I have a serious desire for the author to revisit this story in the future, with an editor firmly in tow and a greater idea of who the main characters are and rewrite it. I think it could be truly a great book with some editing and more of an idea about the two characters we spend the most time with.
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If you wants more wordy summery, sorry!