Biosphere: Hazard

3 Stars

I honestly started off liking this. Like really liking it. Sci-fi novel brought on right in the middle of the action. There was a lot to love here. The story itself was well written, the plot, well I’ll get to that, and the characters were sort of. This is where it all starts to go shaky. Something about how the plot played out was lacking and the characters themselves didn’t really lift off the page.

Solar is one part of a crew that blows up a ship at the beginning of the book. The action is great, the tension, the suspense, basically it’s a textbook scene and this is a good thing. The problem here was, other than money, why are thousands of people and droids being destroyed. If we are on a killing mission why are we on it? Money is a good motivator but with the level of destruction that got her arrested this can’t be her first time so who, beyond their skill set, is she and the crew and what do they do besides what they did in this scene? When the author comes back to them the story just goes on at some time later almost a year after the arrest. So it’s like, okay they kill lots of people blow up a ship, the last time we saw them was when they got caught and… That’s it. Like a big fun opening sequence exists literally to be cool and to serve the purpose of getting two main characters together. It creates more questions than answers.

Next there’s Jay. I’d like to say I like him but his best friend said it best when he told him he missed Kit, Jay’s twin brother, as much as he did and that it was perfectly doable to miss someone and still get on with your life. This sums up Jay. His only purpose is a singled minded mission to get his brother back. Kit was unhappy living in a world where most of it existed in VR. He wanted to live life and thus, rather stupidly if not admirable, ran away. Jay learns nothing. He even expresses this saying his unhappiness is only because Kit isn’t there. With the drones, and the digital world, and all the things Kit tried to explain to him still existing, when he’s gone Jay still only wants to find his brother because everything wrong with the system is okay as long as Kit is there. When even his best friend shouting at him did not force him to take a step back, revaluate and have some serious character growth it was frustrating.

Kit was the only one who made sense but that was quickly ruined. I’m going to assume he ran away at sixteen. The story never specifies age but I’ll get to that later. At sixteen, of all the ships to stow away on he chooses a prison ship and he thinks being with all these prisoners is going to be fun. I can’t remember who said it, but when they said to Solar a similar thing about naivete it was hard not to agree with her. I assumed he ran away under the impression it would be difficult. You don’t just stow away in a world where drones sedate you without consent if you get too aggressive, without complications. Especially on a prison spaceship. Then, when kit tells him why she’s there, honestly this was still a grey area for me until she comes right out with it, not when she tells Kit though because why have a character moment between two main characters. In any event, we find out some time after she tells him what she told him and his reaction to it. The fact he gets mad and keeps this up till the end is baffling. I think the same person who called him Naive says this also. He’s on a prisoner ship. Did he think they all got there because stole an extra muffin at lunch? There will be everything from rapists, to corporate espionage to mass murderers. It’s prison. It’s hard to believe he thought anything outside of the perfectly droned world would be easy considering even in all this perfectness, criminals still exist.

Now to time and age. I never knew how much time had passed was passing how old are the people. Apparently, five years pass. There’s mention of one year could be 20 somewhere else but it doesn’t explain much. When Kit runs away it goes straight to ship scenes. Solar mentions counting a few hundred days so I’m assuming a year has passed. Back on the planet, not knowing how old the twins were to start with, I find out they aren’t old enough to drink so still under 21 but that gives me a wide range to work with, honestly I did not even assume they were more than 13 at this point still. Then it’s back to the ship, ship story reads like a continuation from the last point so as far as I know only days or weeks have passed. So we are still at one year. We go back to and Jay is a working man living on his own. Okay so I guestimate he was sixteen now he’s 18 but apparently, five years have passed. Oh so he’s 21 then. Then, back to the ship, reads like it just picked up where it left off and. I’ll stop.

The problem here is, assuming five years have passed, and both kit and Solar ended up on the ship at the same time. How is the ship story reading so amazingly linear like it’s happening in weeks, days, could be months, but Jay’s story stretches over a five-year span? It didn’t’ make sense and made it hard to put a solid placeholder on how time was passing. Five years is long and if each of the plot points on the ship happened over five years that’s a really long time to pick up on each point. Can’t see it taking that long.

Solar, in the middle of running for her life demands an explanation when they could indeed die if they didn’t try to escape, not the best time for exposition. Chen’s reaction to the entire thing was shocking. Of all the conclusions she could come to that was the one. I think an argument about what Solar did to get arrested happens shortly before or after this scene with Kit… there’s a lot about the last three chapters or so that seem to contract the point of getting out alive.

If you’ve made it this far you’ll notice how long this review is. It was much longer. This book is only ninety pages, and the number of unanswered questions I couldn’t fit in here. If this story wasn’t intending to be a full-length epic sci-fi suspense action drama it needed a more specific line. There’s a lot of characters, murder, an alien parasite, a boy on a mission to find his brother, and a drone policed world. This is not short story material. For character development and a chance to let the nice dark plot take flight, this would need a lot more pages. Usually I say short stories that don’t feel like short stories only need a few chapters but this one definitely felt incomplete and then ended connecting the least developed plotline as the prominent one like all that moon set up was irrelevant and reuniting brothers was more important than answering questions.

Overall even though this was a suspenseful and exciting read I walked away feeling it didn’t take the chance to dig into anything, and I couldn’t get into the characters because of this. Chances are, if people are looking for a fun, adventurous, action-packed sci-fi story, this will work. But ultimately I feel if this was a solid say 300 pages or so and still ended with a reunion it would’ve been much more satisfying and it definitely had more than enough set up to do so but since it’s a series I guess readers will have to see if a new plot angle arises or if some of the questions from the first book will be answered.

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