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Thursday, March 9, 2023

Orphan Planet by Rex Burke (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Pre-order Orphan Planet HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Rex Burke is a SciFi writer based in North Yorkshire, UK.

When he was young, he read every one of those yellow-jacketed Victor Gollancz hardbacks in his local library. He’s sure there are still thrilling SciFi adventures to be told – even if he has to write them himself.

When he’s not writing, he travels – one way or another, he’ll get to the stars, even if it’s just as stardust when his own story is done.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB:  With Earth in crisis, humans are travelling deep into space. But humanity’s future just took a wrong turn.

A seventeen-year colony-ship voyage – a straight shot to a new planet. Handpicked, single-minded crew, and a thousand settlers in hypersleep. No children, no families, no fuss.

That was the plan, anyway.

Captain Juno Washington commands a ship of loners and oddballs. The teenagers of the Odyssey Earth didn’t ask to be born, and face an uncertain future. And Jordan Booth really didn’t want to be woken up early.

After an unexpected change of course, relationships are tested like never before. If they listen to advice, pull together and stop squabbling, they might just make it.

Yeah, right. Good luck with that.

FORMAT/INFO: Orphan Planet is a space adventure with 332 pages, and will be self-published by the author on 18th April, 2023. It is the first book in the Odyssey Earth series.  

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: It's funny, when I was offered a review copy of this book, I said something along the lines of "I'm not the target audience for this, but I'll give it a shot". And how wrong I was.

It begins with Jordan, woken up from hypersleep in a space-farer on its way to another planet that scientists believe capable of supporting earthly life. He's unsure why he's woken up earlier than the rest of the volunteer screw that were in a vegetative state, since his talents don't have anything to do with spaceship aviation (is that the right phrase?). It takes him a while to find his way around the aircraft when he is informed that his talent as a teacher is needed since the previous crew member who took care of the six accidental children (teenagers) on the ship, passed away due to a terminal illness. That's how he ends up being the assigned caretaker that none of the teens want to be around.

As promised, this is a character-led book that focuses on their survival once things go sideways. The conflict, if we can call it that, is circumstantial, and most of the story focuses on Jordan's past and present, before he gets to meet the children, who he eventually starts to sympathise, and bond with. There's also a sassy A.I named after Keanu Reeves, that thinks it is the most superior mind, and can't process how humans can even do two things at the same time, given their relative intelligence level.

I don't say this lightly, this book is very well written, and the author's extensive experience, while in a very unrelated niche, shows clearly. This is one of the books that is as lean as it needs to be. Every detail added to the story, every interaction, seems to be there for a reason. What's better is that the book is neatly divided into four parts, each of which contain clearly defined acts in the story, but go together seamlessly.

This book is set in an alternate present in which climate change has progressed at a much more rapid pace, and humanity has made strides in technology to be able to send this ship of volunteers and scientists to colonize a new planet. The first quarter focuses on this context-setting that I found very interesting. The second, focuses on life in the spaceship, and ramps up the character interactions gently.

I felt for each of the characters, and was torn between sympathising with Jordan for being stuck with a bunch of teenagers, who all behaved like they knew were more than him since he was technically a baby on the ship, and the teenagers for having super-busy negligent parents who not just felt it, but also knew they were unwanted.  Between this mess, and Jordan's reminiscence of his past, the author explores the ideas of parent-child relationships, family, and the human need to belong in a very moving way.

CONCLUSION: Orphan Planet ticked all the boxes for me, and I needed the sequel yesterday. If you like feel-good, character-led books set in space, buying this should be a no-brainer.



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