Space Scoutby S.A. Pavli
A catastrophic failure of the Space Exploration Service Starship Lisa Jane maroons it's Captain Paul Constantine on an uninhabited planet. Resigned to spending the rest of his days as a latter day Robinson Crusoe, the Captain is shocked to find the remains of uninhabited alien exploration base on the planet. This soon becomes a desperate fight for survival for the Captain, but also an exhilarating journey, full of adventure and new discoveries.
Space Scout kept coming up on my Kindle recommendations, and a quick glance at the cover (small and black and white) gave me the initial impression that this book was some titillating space porn, Strike one. Thinking my new Kindle was similar to the Kobo app and I could mark this title as 'not interested' so as to remove from the recommendations list, I tapped on the book.
The Blurb was interesting and prompted me to look into this further. A quick look at the Price $1.50 and the first review which was positive, prompted a sale. A good review is the fourth thing which prompts me to purchase a book.
Space Scout started off strongly, an accident, finding a planet to survive on, coming upon a mystery to be solved, it was great! I loved it, it ticked all the boxes for an enjoyable Sci-Fi book in my eyes.
Then came first contact... and my suspicions that this was a space porn were re-kindled. Porn is probably to harsh, the story quickly slid into a chase situation were the two main characters the human male, Paul Constantine, and alien female scientist, Manera, escape into the wild together after after a puzzling altercation and end up enjoying each others company quite a lot.
A story needs to be able to suspend your disbelief, but it was at this point that I was taken out of the story and spent more time trying to understand the logic rather than enjoy the story.
The alien species, the Hianja have been a peaceful and space faring culture for well on twenty thousand years, In fact the story highlights several times that "We are genetically altered to abhor violence and aggression." Yet one of the first Hianja, Smetronis, that our hero, Paul, meets not only tries to kill him several time but also tries the same with his fellow Hianja, the scientist Manera,
Later while trying to work out what is going on they question “So how was Smetronis and his gang able to do the things they did then?” I mused. “Something very powerful must be motivating them to go against their basic natures in this way. And we have no idea what that something is.”
When this motivation is reveled it is not what I would consider something powerful enough to make the small cabal go against their basic nature, and the whole time the rest of the Hianja's, who abhor violence are taking the whole thing in their stride, no breakdowns or mental crisis.
The whole inconsistency with the Hianja principles and how they act in this story goes against the much talked about peaceful nature. As the book winds up the ultimate ruling council steps in to intervene, this prompts another act of violence from this peaceful race. The last act of violence was explained away under the presumption that because they had no experience with violent situations they listened to a military AI and took it's advice, however all others acts of violence by the other parties where not explained away enough for me to believe, or suspend my disbelief. This final quote from the book sums up this entire scenario for me "He did not regret the action or the loss of life. Given the Hianja aversion to violence, that just does not make sense." The whole peaceful race, which is genetically altered to abhor violence and aggression show only a slight embarrassment at all the violence and aggression which happened throughout the book.
Another inconsistency that had me waiting for an answer is the sexual relationship between Paul (Human) and Manera (Hianja). At the same time that we are told how much they hate violence, we are also told that Hianja are so enlightened now, they don't let physical urges rule them. In fact if they wish to have sexual relations they need to take certain 'drugs' in order to stimulate the desire for a physical relationship. So for the first half of the book Paul is trying to act the same while the whole time lusting after Manera, a female Hianja. Only to have her reciprocate his feelings and indeed spent the rest of the book take every opportunity to fulfill that desire. With no mention of the said drugs being taken or to even explain this.
Finally, toward the end the book changes again from an adventure romance to a preachy philosophic introspection of how society should work. After this the only reason I kept reading was two-fold, I wanted to get the initial mystery solved as to why a small group of aliens were going against their entire nature and upbringing and becoming violent and secondly the writing was compelling. This was the first novel since Stephen Baxters Proxima duology which engaged my emotions so much, it infuriated me and had me ranting to my wife over the inconsistencies yet I still wanted to read on to find out what happens next.
So, to sum up, I liked this book as much as I disliked it, and I guess that is the mark of a good writer, one who engages your emotions so well.
The author, S. A Pavli, has a few other titles in the Amazon store which seem to address similar issues that this book did. You can find the authors page here: S.A.-Pavli e-Books
Interested? Use this link to grab yourself a copy from Amazon.
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