REVIEW: Into the Black (Odyssey One) by Evan Currie

Friday , 29, August 2014 3 Comments

18043147Another day, another disappointing indie military sci-fi novel.  The author sums it up best near the end of the book—

“Goddammit, Deac!” [a soldier] growled.  “I told you to can that sci-fi shit!  I’m sick of you talking like we’re in some damned movie!”

“Come on, Sarge!”  Deacon whined.  “Think about it…We’re on another planet, fighting giant spider things, in powered armor…Christ, Sarge, that’s like every sci-fi cliché ever written!”

If Into The Black were in any way self-aware, spoof-like, or cheeky, the quoted passage would be totally acceptable in a Whedon-esque way; instead, what we get is an entirely humorless story with graviton-thin characterization and not even the faintest whisper of a theme.  Ironically, Deacon—the guy complaining about clichés in the quote—was the most interesting character of the bunch, but he only gets a few brief scenes.  Just as a soldier should never aid his enemy, writers should never help a critic write a disparaging review.  Also, as a general rule, critics have a tendency to make terrible puns, so when deciding on a title writers ought to steer clear of ones like “It’s A Disaster!” and “10 Things I Hate About You”.

Speaking of clichés, the plot of Into The Black is strikingly similar to another space epic that I recently reviewed:  Ryk Brown’s The Frontiers Saga Episodes 1-3.  Both of them feature

1) devastating world wars that create NWO-approved global governments

2) an inexperienced space captain

3) a maiden interstellar voyage

4) experimental ‘jump drive’ technology

5) faceless aliens committing galaxy-wide genocide, AND

6) alien allies who are distantly related to mankind

There’s even the same egalitarian Battlestar Galatica-type military (apparently in space there is no such thing as sexual dimorphism).  But that’s where the similarities end.  While Ryk Brown had some issues with repetitious scenes and plot contrivances, his writing had that space-opera spirit down pat; every sequence was loaded with high emotions and whiz-bang verve.  Currie spends the majority of his time detailing the ins and outs of his various space weapons, which, while credible (and the most enjoyable aspect of the book), fail to reach the glorious gun-porn heights of someone like Larry Correia.  The military aspects are for the most part competently handled, it’s just the people in the military aren’t that interesting.

There’s hardly any time to sit with these characters or get to know them.  As written, I’m not sure we’d want to; they barely even react to earth-shattering events.

“No, sir. This is as close to absolute proof as you get. [The signal is] definitely not from Earth, sir.”

Weston quickly recovered from the surprise. “Okay, it’s alien. Any idea what it says?” 

You know there’s a problem when even the deaths of twenty million people fail to stir the character’s emotions.

For a long moment, she just stood there, wondering why she felt nothing. Why hadn’t she felt anything in the entire time since she had been rescued? How can that be? I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of my people, dozens of friends, my shipmates, my captain, yet I feel nothing? And this man, this self-proclaimed warrior, is so devastated by the loss of one comrade that he is forced to hide his tears? Milla’s silence stretched. What does this say about him? And, perhaps, more importantly, what does this say about me?

Well, Milla, this says that you’re not a compelling character.  This says you’re not invested in the story; ergo, the audience is not invested.

We don’t want to go “Into The Black” with you.  We’d rather make puns.

RATING:  4/10 for aliens with molten rock blood and softcore gun porn.

3 Comments
  • Mike says:

    “Well, Milla, this says that you’re not a compelling character.”

    Ha! Loved that line.

  • José Vargas says:

    Military science fiction should be read as what it is mean to be “entrainment”, not pure literature. Let’s faced, the majority of military scifi readers are not looking to read the next great American novel. If I want to read boring classic literature, that pretends to be science fiction, I stick with 2001 Space Odyssey or the Dune series. As a retired military officer, I give Mr. Currie some excellent mark on his depiction of ground fighting and naval tactics adapted for space battles, especially since these battles are the first for what it is for all intents and purpose are both an experimental spaceship and several weapon systems. The science theory behind the tachyon drive is, at least to the uneducated fan, believable.

  • Ralph Smith says:

    As an engineer I was immediately engrossed in the technology of this space opera. I found the characters deep enough for what the book was about, Great sci-fi, technology, interesting aliens, and a secretive but essentially powerless planetary sentience..
    Maybe it’s because I’m not the kind of person who loves to rip something apart to prove that I’m smart, but this book that the mark on exciting.
    4.5 Stars

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