Monday, May 20, 2013

Take the Star Road - a Book Review

"Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to get his feet on the star road to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?" - Peter Grant - Take the Star Road

I made the mistake of opening Take the Star Road up around 6 a.m. this morning, while coffee brewed and didn't put it down (but for coffee refills) until I was done with it. Good thing it was my day off.

Reading a first fiction novel can be like watching the beginning of a world. When the world is one of deep space, in which life can be as valueless as spent cargo and as complex as the cosmos itself, it takes the mind of someone who has lived such adventure, discovering the secrets of worlds that are as beautiful as they are dangerous, to make it work. Peter Grant, to the blog world known as Bayou Renaissance man, chose well, in picking this genre for his first book.

This is sci fi of the classic genre. No space vampires, zombies or sparkly spaceships to be found. Such things can be fun, but it was not missed as the story launches itself, over time, setting up the details that will fuel not just this novel, but the next, into the cold, bright loneliness of the heavens.
If you are a fan of the prose of the early works of Heinlein, you will thoroughly enjoy this novel. If you are a fan of the more "sparkly" space novels, brew a cup of coffee and sit and acquaint yourself with the language of generations past and future, where words are complex and vast in the realm of communication. It's a place where people, even whole societies, may lie dormant for ages and pages, only to spring into action with motivations and griefs that you were witness to but may not have grasped until it is perhaps too late.

Had the bad guys just said "kill em" in a text message - how interesting would THAT have been? Instead, Peter gives us a complete dictionary of rogues, and in understanding their words, and especially their history, their capabilities are that much more frightening, building tension in the story, that even late in appearing, is no less effective, as you turn page after page.

If you've not read sci-fi (you know, there are people that haven't eaten bacon either) perhaps because you were worried as to an understanding of the science of the future, not to fear. Peter describes in clear detail the structure, order and inner disciplines of not just a ship, but the crew aboard her. Some might say this distracts from the story, but rather, it lays the foundation for it, nanotool by nanotool, so when one of two equally entertaining subplots (one involving a rare antiquity as hot as a neutron star, and the other, a band of cutthroat space pirates) merge, there are no questions, only thrills.
The main character Steve Maxwell, at first seemed too good to be true, having accomplishments that few have at 29, let alone 19. At first glance I was sort of hoping this smart aleck would meet up with a cannibal coronal mass ejection, but Peter deftly revealed small snippets of immaturity and fear that can live side by side with courage in even the strongest person. In doing so, the character was more human, and less bendable/poseable action figure. By the end I was cheering for him. In the last chapter, Steve encounters a pistol wielding, mysterious lass named Lin, a foretelling of future adventures and emotional growth for the character, something to look forward to, even as the last page is finished.

It is very much a worthy summer read  for anyone with a taste for adventure in the classic style. Click on the name of the book above for ordering info, only $2.99 in electronic format.


  1. Thanks for sharing your review.

  2. Wow, a well written review on a well written book. How could we miss ?
    Thanks Brigid. Peter is indeed a wonderful writer.

  3. Brings back memories of childhood when I "inherited" a box of science and Sci-Fi books from a Cousin off to college.... There was Heinlein, among many other authors, and there were the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift I was 8 or 9 years old...and I fell in love with reading... Thanks for bringing back those memories B.

  4. I like that. Sort of a subtle "only non-bacon-eaters would not enjoy this book"

    You couldn't ask for a better review.

  5. Sigh, your review is MUCH better than mine, so I'm just going to link here...

  6. Great review. I picked it up yesterday, and I agree with the echos of early Heinlein.

    Have you seen Nathan Lowell's "Solar Clipper" series? It's the other that reminds me of Heinlein. He's had a great deal of trouble with his publisher and the entire series is not yet out in e-book form, but there's still hope.

  7. Good review for a really good book.

  8. Thanks for your review. I have to limit my paper & electronic book purchases due to diminishing resources...I have elsewhere...

  9. Haven't actually read sci-fi for years but this sounds like the ticket.

  10. jocostello - thank YOU.

    Jane - I agree, and thanks for the email tonight. Your words were appreciated.

    immagikman - classic of anything is hard to beat.

    MSgtB - thank you!

    Bill Beeman - it was a rather "hectic" day at work and I didn't get a chance to check comments (the post was set to come up automatically). Thanks for stopping!

    Proudhillbilly - you will like this one.

    Christopher - just spread the word, more and more people will discover this little gem.

  11. I've downloaded but not had a chance to read it just yet. Looking forward to it.


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