If you have chronocompulsive obsessive disorder (COD) like me, you have to start a series at the beginning. The very beginning. For us CODs, reading Lord of the Rings doesn’t begin with The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, or even The Silmarillion. We are forced to start with Norse mythology and The Saga of the Völsungs, power our way through Nibelungenlied, and finish up our prep work with The Kalevala. Not for any high-minded reasons, mind you, merely because we are anal and have a deep-seeded irrational impulse to begin at the beginning. Jumping into the middle of a story all willy-nilly? That’s crazy.
Which is why it’s a shame that I had to start with the first of Ryk Brown’s Frontier Saga, because I hear it gets a lot better around the tenth book or so. The first three installments (Aurora CV-01, The Rings of Haven, and The Legend of Corinair) are soft mushy sci-fi space operas hardened with rousing interstellar dogfights and good action. The premise is familiar, but fun: an experimental military ship, led by a young captain fresh out of the academy, gets lost in space and must make its way back to earth and save mankind from an evil empire.
Each book follows the same repetitive pattern of events. Ship attacked, ship damaged, ship look for repairs, ship attacked. In between the action, the captain is second-guessed by his sassy female XO and helped by a Russian engineer straight out of Central Casting. There are a lot of smirks and wry smiles. The same conversations about the backstory are iterated multiple times, with little in the way of new information. That the plot hinges on a series of coincidences so improbable a prophecy has to be invented to plug them up does not help matters much.
The author, Ryk Brown, has worked as a cook, rock guitarist, stage lighting technician, and paramedic, and now has had enough success with this series to work full-time on his writing. He’s also part of a larger trend of prolific indie authors who are writing serial fiction. Because they are learning their craft on the fly, they tend to show great improvements from work to work. For a reader who can jump into a series after the author has already started to get into his groove, there’s no problem. But for those chronocompulsively obsessive readers, in the new frontier of indie publishing, having a FTL drive to plow through the mediocre stuff would be really great.