Saturday, 20 April 2013

ePulp Review of the Week - Spinward Fringe Boradcast 0: Origins by Randolph Lalonde

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: OriginsSpinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins by Randolph Lalonde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*E-Pulp Warning* All my e-reading is e-pulp so I review to that standard. Reader beware :) *E-Pulp Warning*

Overall: 4 stars (Recommend)

I stumbled across a recommendation for this series and I'm really glad I did. Spinward Fringe is a fantastic example of space opera fiction with an incredibly detailed world, fantastic technology and a great concept that allows us to explore them both. While it can suffer the usual pacing problems inherent in the genre it is a quality start to an e-pulp series that shows plenty of promise.

Pacing and Action: 3 stars.

Like all the best space opera the battles in Spinward Fringe are fantastic. Epic in scope yet still allowing for the brilliance of amazing fleet tacticians, anyone who's a fan of the genre will feel well at home with SF's grasp of epic confrontation. But the action isn't limited to space as the crew finds themselves in all sorts of sticky situations from bounty hunter chases to jail breaks. The author's use of sci-fi technology definitely helps here as the characters are set up well for the sort of Star Wars-esque running and gunning that makes for great action-adventure storytelling. It's all excellent, fun stuff and the first two stories rip along.

Unfortunately the third story does fall back into the bad habits of the genre. Anyone who loves this genre tends to get used to the tendency of stories to get bogged down in the technology as the author tries to illustrate just how much thought they've put into their sci-fi tech tree (I'm looking at YOU Honor HarringtonOn Basilisk Station). As space opera that's fine but as e-pulp it can turn into a grind about rail cannons and refit schedules that will bore you to tears. There's also some structural problems with the third story where there doesn't seem to be any stakes or narrative motivation until about half way through the story. Considering this is a first novel that one mistake is not bad but it did bring a rip-roaring sci-fi romp to a bit of a crawl which was disappointing.

But if you like your action full of fleet battles and laser blasters, you'll get something out of this for sure.

Pulp Concept: 5 stars.

Brilliant. The world of Spinward Fringe is well thought out and we get a good sense of just what's happening out there in that big old universe. The technology opens all sorts of potential and the wider political machinations make you want to return to the universe to see what happens. Good stuff.

The ship and tech for the crew also helps. If you've ever dreamed of exploring the galaxy with the sort of hardware that allows you to break the Prime Directive with impunity then this is your sort of exploring. Gunboat exploration with the chance to nuke dirty corporate thugs? What could be better than that?

Perhaps the only drawback may be the stories tendency to fall into wish fulfillment - a lot of really convenient things do tend to happen for the crew to function the way they do - but that's kind of the point. If you're super-sam-serious about your sci-fi this may in fact be a turn off but if you're like me and you want to just shoot up corporate stooges with impunity then this is a story for you. And what could be more pulp than that?

Character development: 3.5 stars.

I'm not going to say the characters are brilliant, nor memorable, nor do they go through any sort of development that may merit a PhD thesis. But there definitely is character development there. Maybe it's the wish fulfillment aspect but the characters do tend to blend into the background, subsumed by the cool stuff. They do however exist and do have a story arc. But it's not why you'll be reading this.

Production: 4 stars.

Good editing make it a very readable book. I didn't notice anything that kicked me out of the story. The story was also free as the first in the series which is always big points for production.

The only real drawback would be the fairly unmemorable cover. It does clearly state which 'broadcast' in the series this is (unfortunately a nice surprise for a lot of e-pulp) but it's still fairly forgettable.

Series Potential: 4 stars.

This series is already selling like hotcakes so the concept is sound. It's also six or seven books strong already so if you enjoy this one you can keep reading safe in the knowledge that there's plenty more where that came from.

On its own merits though you can see why there's such a following. The world that has been imagined begs to be explored further and the impression that we've just started this journey is palpable. About the only thing preventing it from being 5 stars would be the characters. At no point was I desperate to see what happened to them even if I was interested in seeing what happened to their ship. But still, there's definitely gold in them thar hills and I look forward to returning to the Spinward Fringe universe.

Wrap Up.

Excellent sci-fi space opera pulp with fantastic potential for the future. If you're into space opera and into reading e-pulp then this is definitely a story for you. With plenty more where that came from...


For more e-pulp be sure to check out my other Good-Reads reviews as well.

View all my reviews

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