Beyond Cloud Nine (Beyond Saga Book 1) by Greg Spry
File Size: 2486 KB
Print Length: 391 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0990822400
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Greg Spry; 1 edition (September 17, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Author site: www.gregspry.com
When author Greg Spry submitted Beyond Cloud Nine to me for review and described the book's main character, who is of American/Japanese heritage, I immediately accepted.
I have always had an affection for Japan and the Japanese and think it's really too bad about that whole WW II thing. Why? Well, it's not because I have any close friends who are Japanese, though my buddy from my days at MicroPro, publisher of WordStar for you antiques out there, Todd Judge, lives in Japan with his Japanese wife and their extremely cute identical twin daughters.
I have never been to Japan. I speak no Japanese, though I've read extensively about the history of the country and its culture, and recently bought a used copy of The Yakuza from E-bay, a movie I saw when it was first released in the 70s and have never forgotten. And I have a ton of Japanese plane and ship models I one day intend to build if I can live long enough.
I also enjoy Japanese manga (I read it online mainly here) and and watch a fair amount of anime online (currently working through Vampire Knight, though the lachrymose sound track is really grating). Elements of manga and anime are tightly woven into my own novel, Rule-Set, another tribute to my interest in Japan.
Interestingly enough, I didn't much care for the animes of the 60s and 70s, especially Speed Racer with that stupid monkey, though Tobor the X-Man was a bit more palatable. I knew the Warshawsky brothers had made a mistake when they announced they were doing a live action version of Speed Racer. Any comic that features a monkey wearing a hat is trouble.
The reason for my soft spot for the Japanese is Mrs. Narita, my third grade teacher at PS 86 in the Bronx. Mrs. Narita was Japanese American and, as I recall, very cute. Even better was the fact that Mrs. Narita appreciated my compulsive desire to read. By third grade, the phrase that probably most defined my early childhood was "Ricky, get your nose out of that book." During a parent/teacher conference, Mrs. Narita informed my mother and father that my vocabulary had become so extensive that she found herself reaching for the dictionary when talking with me. (No, I wasn't a boy genius. My math skills were as horrid as my reading skills were good.)
I really was a very good reader, but I've always wondered if Mrs. Narita had not come to the strategic conclusion that while I had my head pointed towards my lap as I ignored my other lessons on history, math, spelling and so on, I was less likely to trouble her and the rest of the class. Regardless, my parents were quite pleased with that aspect of the meeting and the entire incident was the high point of my elementary school career. My affection for Japan was set in my heart.
But enough reminiscing. Let's move onto the review.
The primary protagonist of Beyond Cloud Nine is Brooke Davis, the daughter of an American father and Japanese mother. The story kicks off in the year 2247 and homo sapiens has spread into the solar system as far as the moons of Jupiter. A political crisis is underway as different colonies begin the process of breaking away from Mother Earth and their nations of origin. Compounding the problem is that humanity is on the brink of finally mastering faster than light (FTL) technology, bringing travel to the stars within reach. Who will first have access to the technology, and when, has become a flash point in the gathering crisis.
When we first meet our heroine, she's been deployed on a UN (sigh. Yes, the UN. If you read my review of Second Chance, you know what I think of the UN. To see what I think about the UN, go rent Idiocracy. Oh well. It's convenient) space carrier assigned to protect the FTL project, named Luminosity, from terrorist attacks. Brooke is a serious badass in the tradition of Starbuck in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica and demonstrates it by taking a wrench to the face of her wingman after they have a disagreement about battle tactics. Gotta love the girl.
The action kicks off with a battle between Brooke's fighter squadron and a group of terrorists who we later find out are much more than they seem. One of the best aspects of Cloud Nine is that author Spry works to make the science feel real, something I also strove for in my novel. Here's his description of Brooke preparing to launch in her "SF-522 Starthroat" and intercept a group of baddies:
She fastened her helmet to her armor and sealed her face shield, feeling like a futuristic knight. After the safety harness clamped down around her shoulders, locking her in place, the canopy closed. Gravity gel rose up above her boots, legs, torso, and helmet until it filled the cockpit. The gel buoyed up her body, soothing her as if she’d crawled back into the womb.
What's fun about this passage is that it's scientifically feasible. One of the problems with most descriptions of space battles is they're always a bit ludicrous if you know anything about Newtonian physics. On Earth, the limits of human anatomy generally restrict us to Gs between the 5 to 15 range for any extended period. At speeds that can generate those Gs, ship-to-ship combat in space is a slow, tedious affair. I'm not sure how many Gs Star Trek's warp drive theoretically generates, but it's enough to rename the ship the USS Strawberry Jam. (Yes, I know they have "inertial dampening systems" on board the Enterprise, but no one ever attempts to explain how they work.)
By contrast, Greg's gel system could indeed enable a pilot to endure hundreds of Gs, turning space based fighter-to-fighter combat into something that wouldn't put you to sleep. Of course, I'm hoping in the future mankind will be as one and no one will be shooting at each other. But if we are, let's not be boring about it.
The rest of the book also strives for a feeling of reality and creates a world of the future you can believe in. His description of how an FTL-driven spaceship might handle and operate appears to be based on the Alcubierre drive and feels solid. Cityscapes set in a future Chicago were also enjoyable and had a nice hard edge.
The author is also good at building interesting, sympathetic characters. Some of the best writing in Beyond deals with the interaction of Brooke with her identical twin Marie and her niece Maya. In fact, if I have any criticism of the novel, it's that author Spry concentrates on providing slam bang action and perhaps needs to focus on the human factor a bit more in Beyond's sequel. For example, I thought the relationship between Brooke and Kevin Sommerfield, the scientist responsible for the Luminosty project, could have been built out further.
To sum up, a blast to read. Professionally copyedited and composed. Scientifically well constructed. If you enjoy strong feminine leads, definitely your cup of tea. If you're ethnically Asian or share an Asian background, a must read. Go buy it.
And Mrs. Narita, wherever you are, I still love you.
Review Submission Guidellines
Want me to review your book? You must join the Rule-Set mailing list and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do NOT use the contact form for a review request; for press and publishers only. Your book can be a proof but ready for sale within 60 days.
Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
I'll take a look at YA, but I'm not the best fit to that audience. PDF, Mobi, print all fine. If you have an author website you wish me to link to, please provide the URL. I don't charge and I also don't guarantee a good review!
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