Friday, 11 April 2014

No-Nonsense Reviews - The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard L. Sanders

+ Technically well written, for the most part
+ Nice cover

- Drags on too long
- Generally unlikeable characters
- Plodding pacing that never changes
- A prime example of telling, not showing
- I might as well have played Mass Effect and had fun

As part of my intention of making a dent in my unread Kindle books, I started reading this one because the cover looked interesting.

I wish I'd chosen something else instead.

While technically well written--up until the last quarter of the book, anyway--the interest piqued by the opening chapter soon goes out the window.  Calvin Cross is, it seems, intended to be a quirky and intelligent character but instead comes across as arrogant and stupid, doing things for no real reason.  Not enough time is spent with his crew, ostensibly his friends, to give you any real reason to care about them, and the love interest Summers Presley is a downright unpleasant woman.

Plot points are introduced that go nowhere and serve little purpose other than to give the main character a free source of information; I presume they're intended to be elaborated on later in the series.  At one point a minor character is revealed to speak an alien language, which is promptly disregarded a couple of pages later when they meet a friendly alien and never mentioned again.  I was actively hoping for some characters to get killed.

The main issue is that the whole novel felt like an overlong Mass Effect fanfic with the names changed.  Well, some names: I assume the passing reference to an "Alenko" was intended to be humour, but combined with some others I can link to the game series, I'm not sure.

The writing started out well, insofar as sentences were structured well and contained correct punctuation, but the pacing never changed.  There was an attempt to punch-up some sentences in the last quarter but they seemed to mostly consist of putting full stops in the middle of a sentence. And then carrying on like nothing had happened.

I really wanted to like it.  On the surface it has everything I love in a sci-fi novel, but on the whole I wish I'd just dusted off Mass Effect again.

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