fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsInto the Black by Evan Currie Odyssey 1 science fiction book reviewsInto the Black by Evan Currie

Because he was such a spectacular fighter pilot during WWIII, Captain Eric Weston has been given command of the new spaceship Odyssey which is making her maiden voyage beyond the galaxy, to boldly go where no man has gone before. What Weston and his crew find out there is quite a surprise: a small spacecraft emitting a distress signal and containing a nearly dead human woman named Mia.

When they take Mia back to their ship, revive her and learn her language, they discover that her ship had been attacked by non-human aliens. In fact, the Odyssey has arrived just in time to witness the aftermath of the destruction of an entire planet of humans by a horde of insectoid aliens, and these aliens don’t seem to be content with just one planet. The human targets, unfortunately, are somewhat pacifistic and do not have the weapons they need to defend themselves.

For Captain Weston, there are so many questions that need answers. First, obviously, is how there are humans so far away from Earth… but that’s going to have to wait, because the most pressing concern is whether or not the crew of Odyssey should try to help their genetic cousins. Their duty, after all, is to go straight back to Earth and report what they’ve found because if they stay and help, they’ll likely be destroyed, and then Earth won’t know to prepare for a possible alien attack. But can they, in good conscience, leave their defenseless fellow humans to certain destruction? Of course not.

Into the Black, the first in Evan C. Currie’s ODYSSEY ONE saga, is a fast-moving military science fiction novel akin to Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET or David Weber’s HONOR HARRINGTON series. It also reminded me somewhat of Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series (Americans surprised to find humans in another world and needing to fight hordes of hive-minded aliens) and, because our heroes are fighter pilots, the movie Top Gun, and of course, Star Trek. Into the Black was originally self-published but has been picked up by 47North, an Amazon imprint whose books are produced on audio by Brilliance Audio.

Unfortunately, Into the Black, feeling like a mish-mash of several other military and/or science fiction series, doesn’t really stand out in any way. Plotwise, I don’t think there was anything in Into the Black that I haven’t seen before. It’s all a bit gadgety with lots of emphasis on how the guns, spacesuits, and spaceships work, including lots of explanation about vectors, velocity, weapon trajectories, and such. For readers who love, or at least aren’t tired of that sort of thing, Into the Black may be a satisfying (if not original) story.

I would have enjoyed Into the Black more if it had excelled in some other area, but it doesn’t. The writing is merely serviceable and even a bit choppy in places. The jokes that make the fighter pilots chuckle didn’t have the same effect on me. I was baffled by a sudden shift in Currie’s style about half way through the book: his characters, who had not uttered (I believe) a single curse word up until that point, abruptly start cursing regularly, and this couldn’t be explained by the story’s plot. I was seriously wondering if someone else was now writing the dialogue, or if Currie had suddenly obtained permission from his editor to use bad language. The language didn’t bother me — the obvious stylistic switch did.

Another thing that didn’t work too well was the characterization, which is not an uncommon problem in gadgety science fictions stories. Currie does a good job with Captain Weston (though I’m still wondering how his superiors thought he was qualified for this mission) and a few of his characters are quite likeable, but most of them seem like stock characters. Perhaps there are only, as Myers-Briggs suggests, 16 different personality types to work with, but some more background or introspection from the main secondary characters would have helped. This is perhaps forthcoming in future installments of the ODYSSEY ONE series. The crew is also unwaveringly courageous, obedient, and noble, even when faced with an attack by a horde of aliens they didn’t know existed. The humans that the Odyssey encounters are similarly pale. Except that they were pacifists and had different fashion trends, Mia’s race was indistinguishable from American people. You’d think that humans living in another galaxy wouldn’t be so much like us.

I listened to Brilliance Audio’s production which was read by Benjamin L. Darcie. I like his voice, but I thought his reading was dull. I’m not sure that was his fault, though. I should mention that the audio edition of this book has received excellent reviews by other readers at Audible, so mine seems to be the minority opinion. I have the next book in the ODYSSEY ONE series, The Heart of the Matter, which also has good reviews at Audible. I may or may not try it.

Odyssey One — (2014-2016) Publisher: Beyond the confines of our small world, far from the glow of our star, lies a galaxy and universe much larger and more varied than anyone on Earth can possibly imagine. For the new NAC spacecraft Odyssey and her crew, the unimaginable facets of this untouched world are about to become reality. The Odyssey’s maiden voyage is an epic adventure destined to make history. Captain Eric Weston and his crew, pushing past the boundaries of security, encounter horrors, wonders, monsters, and people, all of which will test their resolve, challenge their abilities, and put in sharp relief what is necessary to be a hero. A first-rate military science fiction epic that combines old-school space opera and modern storytelling, Into the Black: Odyssey One is a riveting, exhilarating adventure with vivid details, rich mythology, and relentless pacing that will leave you breathlessly awaiting book two.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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