jueves, 24 de mayo de 2012

The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
Review Soundtrack: I suggest that you read this review while listening to Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satrini (Spotify link, Youtube link)

I am huge fan of big idea science fiction. In fact, the bigger the ideas, the more I enjoy the book. However, I'm not always in the mood for philosophical disquisition or scientific speculation involving convoluted physics theories. Sometimes I just want to read something light and fun. Something with a straightforward plot, that grabs you from the first page and that you can read without worrying about every little detail or subtle hint left by the author. The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown is the perfect such book.

At the beginning of The Devil's Nebula we follow two different plot threads. On the one hand, we have the crew of The Paradoxical Poet: Captain Ed Carew, Pilot Lania Takiomar and Engineer Jed Neffard. They are trying to smuggle an alien statuette from a Vetch planet when they are detained by the Expansion Authority, who will make them an offer they can't refuse. Meanwhile, young Maatja is about to discover that the Weird, the alien race that provides nourishment to her village, may not have her people's best interest at heart.    

Although both threads are fun to read, the one that takes place in World, the planet where Maatja lives, is the most interesting of the two. While the adventures of Captain Carew and his crew are quite entertaining, they are a bit formulaic and the characters are two-dimensional. The chapters devoted to Maatja, however, are more original and refreshing, especially because we get to know what is the strongest point of the book: the mysterious aliens called the Weird, a race with a very peculiar biology that reminded me of the aliens in the X-COM: Apocalypse videogame.

The prose is simple and clearly subordinated to plot development. In fact, the novel has a certain YA science-fantasy feel to it (there are a number of explicit scenes, though). There is also plenty of humor, and even self-parody, especially in the first third of the novel.

The Devil's Nebula has been classified as Space Opera, but I don't quite agree. In fact, only a small fraction of the novel takes place in space and, for instance, the interplanetary conflict (between humanity and the Vetch) is, sadly, one of the most underdeveloped aspects of the novel. In The Devil's Nebula you won't find the plot complexities of Peter F. Hamilton's stories or the dark tone of some of Alastair Reynolds's works. You will find, however, a pulp (in a good sense) science fiction adventure that is fun all the way and very difficult to put down.

It must be also noted that this is the first novel in a shared world series and some of the aspects of the universe may, and certainly will, be explored further in future installments. Eric Brown has done a very good job with the world-building and I'm looking forward to reading the next novel in the series.

All things considered, I strongly recommend The Devil's Nebula, especially if you're looking for something light and fun to read at the beach this summer.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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