My First SPSFC2 Semifinalist Review: Earthship, by John Triptych and Michel Lamontagne
As for now, Team Escapist, has decided to hold off on posting actual scores, but that doesn’t mean reviews aren’t coming! So here’s my first semifinalist round review. And like before, this review expresses my own opinion and not the opinions of other members of either Team Escapist, or other judges on other teams within the SPSFC2 competition.
On with the review ...
Based on the back cover, I was expecting a fast paced, action story with intrigue. The pacing is okay. The action if definitely there, as is the intrigue. But it was all muddled with too many POVs. And everything was weighed down by heavy handed ‘telling’, and lack of tension.
Earthship is an ambitious story with short chapters and action moving the plot along at a reasonable pace, but ultimately couldn’t exceed it’s trope- governments not listening to scientists regardless of their evidence. Tropes aren’t a bad thing, in fact they’re good. They are what initially drive us to want to read a story, and they set up audience expectations. Some readers like an underdog story. Some readers like friends to lovers, second chances, secret identities. It’s what an author does with these tropes that’s important. Flip them upside down. Change them. Create characters so deep and interesting the reader doesn’t even see the trope. Otherwise, it’s stale.
And unfortunately, the book couldn’t hide it’s trope behind other techniques.
In fact, it was too much trope and more.
Too many POV characters, especially when only three are listed on the back cover blurb. Despite what felt like an attempt to create deep characters, by introducing trauma and turmoil in their pasts, they came across two dimensional. Which probably had to do with the strong tell-format of the story writing. I wasn’t shown anything, only dictated to through barely concealed info-dumps disguised as dialogue.
Too much extraneous back story not woven into the plot also added to the story's problems. Readers shouldn’t need to take a break from story-flow to learn something.
There were also too many conveniences. Too much forced dialogue. As in, why is Benny so incompetent, and ignorant to the history of spaceflight when he works in space? Many conversations came across contrived to pass info to the reader via dialogue. It’s a good tactic, but it doesn’t work when you have to make characters and situations unbelievable. And it’s not to say the characters weren’t interesting, so much as they were, at times, behaving in ways better suited to fill in needed gaps in the story rather than who they are supposed to be.
It all became so much that it was hard to read with anything more than half-interest concerning the plot itself.
It all started with the prologue.
‘… the perpetrator continued to come ever closer towards its intended host …’
This vagueness failed to create suspense, or intrigue. It felt like a contrived mystery being built around the extraneous use of ‘descriptions’. Vagueness does not beget intrigue. If fact, it can frustrate a reader, especially when it’s bare-face in front of you. And I’m not sure the prologue worked anyway. It felt like I was being told the end of the joke before the actual joke. I know where the book/story is going, where it’s leading to. Where’s the suspense in that?
Unfortunately, this book lacked an understanding of show don’t tell and the basic principles of how to build tension. Removal of a few POV characters, tightening up extraneous backstory (or reverting it to a form of show-don’t-tell), would help this story tremendously. It would take it up a whole other level, especially considering all the effort taken to give the story good science, and good story ideas.