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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Der Sternvolker" by Christopher Meyer (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Christopher Meyer Website
Order Der Sternvolker HERE

INTRODUCTION: Here at Fantasy Book Critic we get tens of indie review queries a week, some with the full ebook included, some with samples and I dutifully open all that are not UF or YA but very rarely something hits the special combination of content/style I look for in any book I try. Usually the indies fail on content for me since there is so much "ancient evil, destined boys/girls" or their sfnal analogs coming in that I almost stopped opening such, but in the few cases a book has an intriguing blurb, the writing style needs also to hit it with me and that is a very subjective thing.

When Der Sternvolker popped in the inbox, the blurb below proclaimed it a space adventure in an intriguing 24th century Solar System - something of great interest - and when I opened it, the novel grabbed me from the first page so I decided to read it next.

"It’s the year 2305. Earth is gone. Humanity is scattered throughout the solar system. Space is unforgiving, and life is cheap. Peter Drexel is the untried Captain of the Loki. Broke and with an under strength crew he attempts to find a little work to make an honest living. But soon he finds himself in over his head as he fights off Martian Technocrats, city-state militias, privateers, and madmen. In the midst of it all Peter will discover a dark secret about the demons of ancient Earth that will shatter his world."

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Der Sternvolker is a really fun book in the Jack Vance tradition - though it takes place in the Solar System rather than the Galaxy at large - but the societies are varied and strange while the adventure is nonstop and those are the main Vancian sfnal trademarks of classics like Planet of Adventure, The Demon Princes or the Gaean Reach novels.

So we have the usual: Peter Drexel, the independent captain with a complicated past and a need to prove himself, Amelia Krueger, the mysterious pilot with even more of a complicated past, Balder Faltskog, the enhanced mercenary leader out of a job and desperately needing one for him and his team, lord Rickard d'Helion of the Mars Technocracy, and his seductive sister Celeste as the rich manipulators, etc, all set in the year 2305 AD when Earth is a devastated barren land, but the rest of the Solar System is a very intriguing and diverse place, while the Sternvolk, the German speaking space folk of the title, form a very powerful corporatist guild that travels the System to trade, help keep order and link the scattered human polities.

While there is an overall main thread which is slowly revealed, the novel starts in the episodic fashion characteristic of its subgenre, with Peter Drexel and his crew on the Loki zipping around the System on this or that job to make a living and keep the ship in top shape, while taking the occasional vacation in a suitable spot.

Of course said jobs keep being "interesting" with unexpected twists and turns and we meet pirates, mind viruses, treasure hunters, mad emperors, rebels, while the manipulative aristocrats of Mars and the rigid Sternvolk are the main "powers to be". The action is non-stop and there is everything - mystery, romance, fights, battles, cool tech and gadgets, but also the nostalgia of the mad, dead Earth and its "lost super tech" which powers part of the action.

The style of the novel contains the right mix of pulp and modern and while the character interactions are pretty standard and predictable, the book is just an exuberant page turner that is a pleasure to read. In addition to that, there is a lot of backstory sprinkled throughout, in which both Peter's decision to quit the Sternvolk and strike on his own - with everyone predicting failure and his coming back tail between his legs so to speak - and Amelia's rejection of her privileged position there are very well integrated in the story and there are lots of memorable moments, funny but emotional and wrenching too.

Another thing I really liked about Der Sternvolker was the refreshing attitude towards personal relationships of the novel which is very modern, with women and men who speak their minds and know what they want.

While I noticed some typos here and there, the novel was edited reasonably well and I had no real complaints on that score. I really regretted when it ended since I wanted more. In another great touch that reminded me of the sf of yore, Der Sternvolker wraps up nicely its main storyline, while the last two pages provide the hook for more adventures in the really fun universe imagined by the author.

Overall, Der Sternvolker (A+) is a fun space adventure romp and I strongly recommend it for anyone wanting to read one such!


Yona said...

"german speaking"


"der sternvolker" makes absolutely no sense in german. correct would "Das Sternenvolk"

it sounds truly ridiculous to a german speaking person like myself...

Liviu said...

The author's website mentions he was born in Germany and while the book is written in English it has the occasional German expression.

Sadly, I have almost no knowledge of German so i am not qualified to judge how the title sounds

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