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3.5 Stars

forbidden the starsForbidden the Stars started out well, but didn’t quite live up to the promise. It begins intriguingly, on an asteroid, which is being surveyed for valuable metals. The only people present are the surveyors- a married couple- and their ten-year-old son, Alex. Alex is left to his own devices while his parents are working, being tutored by a computer, and slacking off playing space-pirate games.

Then, there is the spaceship captain Justine, who has just landed her ship on Pluto. The first thing her team finds is a large pyramid-like object inscribed with runes that turn our to be ancient Mayan. What?

Simultaneously, we see what’s happening on the moon- Luna station- as a disabled renegade Chinese dude takes over with a sophisticated criminal enterprise, populated with teenage hackers. We also spend time with the head of the Canadian space mining corporation who is in charge of the asteroid surveying operations.

In this time we learn that Earth in 2090 or so, is run by a group of national corporations, some of which have been taken over by others. Operations like the voyage to Pluto are undertaken cooperatively, although there is still intense competitions amongst corporations and the Chinese are prickly as ever.

There’s a lot going on at once, with a lot of fast-paced scientific jargon thrown around. That works for me- I don’t need to understand the details as long as I know the gist of what’s happening. In fact, it can be kind of fun to be a little confused- kind of like being dropped into the middle of a foreign world. Reminded me of getting off the Tokyo subway at the wrong station.

The big moment is when the Asteroid on which Alex and his parents live suddenly disappears. It creates a crisis situation on Earth, and when remnants of the asteroid suddenly appear in Pluto’s orbit, just minutes later, that mission is diverted to rescue Alex, the lone survivor in his little escape pod. Unfortunately, his parents didn’t make it.

It’s also unfortunate that at this point, things deteriorate storywise. The different points of view are interesting, but as a result, you never identify with any particular character. You’re sympathetic to Alex, but he’s so changed by his narrow escape, and we don’t really understand how until it’s too late. I felt like everything remained on the surface, and at that point,  the technical jargon gets in the way of the story.

As the Pluto mission brings Alex back to Earth, they are intercepted by pirates in the pay of the Chinese moon-gangster who has realized that Alex possesses the power needed for faster-than-light travel.  At this point, there are a few several-year leaps before the action continues. All this does is serve to distance you just a bit more from the characters at a time when you should be caring more.  Of course, it’s to be continued in the next book.

I really can’t fault the writing- the author knows what he’s doing. The tension built up really well, and I found myself reading very eagerly for the first 2/3’s of the book. Somehow though, the characters didn’t grab me enough to make me really care about what happened to them. Maybe that’s typical of sci-fi and I just don’t read enough of it. I expect Battlestar Galactica-levels of drama and emotion!

Anyway, if you enjoy a fast-paced sci-fi read, you’ll probably like this. And, it’s still free on Amazon!