Book Review

Space Carrier Avalon (Castle Federation Book 1) Book Review

Quick Summary of Space Carrier Avalon

There’s still some life left in the old Deep Space Carrier Avalon. Wing Commander Kyle Roberts is part of the plan to wring one more mission out of the old, storied carrier. Captain Malcolm Blair is another part. Together, they have to root out the corruption that has taken root.

If the succeed? Then they’ll be rewarded with what should be an easy, fly-the-flag tour of the Federation’s border worlds. But between an uptick in pirate activity, the unpredictability of Avalon’s ancient technology, and the increasing aggression from the Terran Commonwealth, you just know it’s not going to be smooth sailing.

And that’s to say nothing of the shambles of Roberts’ personal life…

Book Information

What I Liked about Space Carrier Avalon

IMPORTANT: From this point forward, there could be spoilers!

The Shadow of Battlestar Galactica

Did you watch Battlestar Galactica? It’s hard for me to believe that the most recent series was from 2004. I still think of it as the new Battlestar Galactica, with the original 1978 version being the remember first. Without getting into who played Adama better (okay, with apologies to Lorne Green, Edward James Olmos absolutely defined the part), watching those series did two things.

  1. Set my expectations for what space-based fighter combat could look like
  2. Powerfully defined the genre so that writers afterward couldn’t help but be compared

The second is especially true of the 2004 version. Why do I bring that up in this review? Because every time I start reading a book about space-based carriers, I go in thinking Galactica. It’s not fair. It’s not the writer’s fault. But I’m immediately judging the prose by how it compares.

The news here is all good. Space Carrier Avalon went its own way. It’s impossible to avoid using some of the tropes. Pilots have to be set apart from the rest of the crew, for example. Pilots have to die in droves. This book presented the material in a way that felt natural for its world. I never felt like the story tried to force fit foreign tropes. The pilots and their interactions with the crew, for example, felt natural and consistent.

So, shadow avoided!

Realistic-Feeling Military

Space Carrier Avalon: Realistic Military

I don’t know if the writer has military experience. I don’t, and the closest I’ve gotten is being friends with ex-Air Force airmen, ex-Army soldiers, and Marines (I understand that there are no ex-Marines). I’ve developed a sense for false military jargon, to the extent that in the series of books I’m forever trying to write, I’ve had to go in a completely direction because I couldn’t get it right.

This book felt right. The division of duties and the way the various divisions interacted felt right. I think that’s hard to do, so I appreciated it here.

Roberts’ wreck of a home life was a subplot that wove through the book. I liked how it was setup, and I liked how it developed through the story. The resolution hit the right emotional notes without being sappy.

I don’t have an astro-physics background. I don’t know if the tactics that Roberts came up with would work in reality or not. I’ll just say this: Within the context of the story, I bought it. Each time. In other words, it worked.

What I Liked Less about Space Carrier Avalon

George H. Scithers, Shadow of the Past

Have you ever heard of George H. Scithers? He was a major editor and writer back in the day (well, my day). While I was trying to get my writing career off the ground (back in the mid 1980s), I submitted several manuscripts to Amazing Stories while he was the editor. Two things set him apart from other editors of the time.

First, he did was few other editors did. He would comment on rejections. That’s amazing — despite the huge volume of material he had to read, he would still take the time to say why he rejected my manuscripts. For a writer trying to hone his craft, that was a huge opportunity.

Second, his comments breezed right past blunt and sailed into pointed and barbed. For example, one particularly bad manuscript of mine earned the comment that when he tried to say while he rejected it, “words failed.”

I wonder. Should I be proud that at least one of my manuscripts was so bad that an accomplished writer and author was speechless? Probably not.

O.D.T.A.A. and This Book

Space Carrier Avalon: The ghost of O.D.T.A.A.

The reason I bring up this past humiliation is that one of my manuscripts came back with this note:

O.D.T.A.A.

I am ashamed to admit that without the internet, I had to write back and ask what that meant. It means One Damned Thing After Another. My plot was a series of events with no connection. Things happened, and the characters reacted. I didn’t know it at the time, but that didn’t help my story.

That happened a couple of times in this book. The book started with Roberts and Blair going to great effort to get rid of corruption on the docked carrier. But after the opening chapters, there was no more mention of that.

Later, the engineer reported a flutter in their FTL drive (called the Alcubierre-Stetson Drive, which is cool). Later, that flutter caused a serious incident. Trouble was, it felt like it came out of nowhere. If it was enough to disable the ship, Commander Wong, the engineer, should have said something before hand. Since he only mentioned it in passing, it felt awkward. It would have been more dramatic to keep a few corrupted crewman onboard, connected to the opening scenes, to give the failure more dramatic punch.

Was that enough to ruin the book?

Do I Recommend Space Carrier Avalon?

Space Carrier Avalon is the first book in a series that continues in Stellar Fox. The best way to answer the question of whether I’m going to recommend this book is to answer the question, “Do I intend to buy the next book in the series?” After all, if I liked this one, I’m going to buy the next, aren’t I?

The answer’s yes. I intend to buy the second book. And yes, if you like space fleet science fiction, I think you’ll like this book. It doesn’t have the magnificent complexity and scope of Children of Time, which I consider a high-water mark in modern science fiction. But it doesn’t have to. Space Carrier Avalon entertained me, and it made me care about its characters and drew me into its world. That’s more than enough to earn a recommendation!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

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