“Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.” -- John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
Series: The Silver Ships
Author: Scott H. Jucha
Paperback: 306 pages
Publisher: S.H. Jucha; 1st edition (February 10, 2015)
Genre: Science Fiction (Space Melodrama & Utopian Sci-fi)
Publisher Description: An explorer-tug captain, Alex Racine detects a damaged alien craft drifting into the system. Recognizing a once in a lifetime opportunity to make first contact, Alex pulls off a daring maneuver to latch on to the derelict. Alex discovers the ship was attacked by an unknown craft, the first of its kind ever encountered. The mysterious silver ship’s attack was both instant and deadly. What enfolds is a story of the descendants of two Earth colony ships, with very different histories, meeting 700 years after their founding and uniting to defend humanity from the silver ships.
About the Author: Scott H. Jucha (ū•hă) has had an extensive career as a senior manager in the technical education and software development industries, with degrees in Biology and Broadcast Communications. He has been driven by an innate interest in computers since his initial adoption of an IBM PC in 1981. The Silver Ships are a planned five-book series with a potential spin-off in the works. His first attempt at a novel, entitled The Lureand written over three decades ago, was a crime drama centered around the surfacing of a 110-carat yellow diamond lost during the French Revolution.
About the Series: The Silver Ships is a series of full-length, science fiction novels that explore first contact between the descendants of two Earth colony ships, who landed on their separate planets, over 700 years ago. Jucha developed the concept for the sci-fi series in 2012, but it took a year before he found an efficient way to write. In November 2013, he created a series of cross-indexed documents in Word 2010 — a plot outline, the characters and backgrounds, and the objects, which listed the stars, planets, colonies, technical items and common goods. The process flowed afterwards.
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This is a fairly simplistic, predictable and enjoyable space-opera adventure tale laced with romance. A young introvert named Alex Racine has been snaring ice asteroids with his spaceship for New Terra’s water-hungry outposts for some time when he finds a derelict alien craft and decides to make contact with it.
The beginning of the story is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. The use of applied physics for space travel in the first few pages gives a sense of realism and provides opportunities for later improvement. The interaction between Alex and the AI is fascinating.
However, once the drifting alien ship is saved and the rest of the surviving crew is revived from stasis, the story becomes dull and the writing turns clichéd. Alex becomes an infallible Defender of the Universe, who seems to possess super human powers that astonish everyone but himself. All of a sudden, every woman wants to bang him and every man swears undying loyalty to him. Alex’s home planet, New Terra, makes him an ambassador to the aliens (who are also human) in hopes of a technology exchange. While the Government of New Terra is scrutinizing him, Alex’s professor gets nasty in defense of Alex’s genius and honesty. Later, New Terra agrees to help the aliens (who are extremely attractive humans) fight real alien enemies in silver ships who may be threatening their home world, based on a vision that Superhero Alex has.
Characterization in the story is interesting. The aliens (who are human) are sexy and thin. They live in a world where there are no bad guns and only good people and highly advanced technology. However, other than shockers for the incorrigible, they seem to have nothing else.
Alex is seemingly constructed as a highly masculine space explorer with macho features and mannerisms. He has not only an exceptional physique, but also mental and personality virtues — which tends to draw women with raised levels of testosterone. He is sort of a good-faith and good-willed superman.
Then the superwoman Renée, leader of the other alien civilization, appears and likewise she is an extraordinarily beautiful and correct being. She is erotically electrified every time Alex is in the picture, and probably vice versa. The instant love affair between Alex and Renée is so slushy, cheesy and ludicrous that it succeeds as the very definition of romantic escapism. The future of humanity in the union of these two “cousins” augurs well. Everyone (including the AIs) seems to love Alex because it’s just impossible not to love him.
I didn’t like how the author portrays his fellow New Terrans — most of whom seem to believe that the Government takes care of its people, and offers good socialized medicine. The big bad wolf on New Terra is a conservative who is full of egocentric tendencies and serves up a buffet of buffoonery; his excessive mischief and guile are best exemplified in his stealing little alien secrets. Astonishingly, these New Terrans embrace the political failures of their home planet.
A majority of the novel offers too much of the “melo-” and not enough of the “drama.” Much of the novel revolves around assembling weapons to fight aliens and uncovering the conservatives’ dirty plot to garner technology for themselves. Nonetheless, the underlying concept is still captivating: two human civilizations, one named New Terra, the other The Confederation (or “cousins,” as the narrator calls them), who have been isolated from each other for about 700 years and spatially almost 24 light years apart, meet by chance and cooperate to battle aggressively irrational and “inhuman” aliens, who are attacking the planets of the Confederation. The author imagines these two “cousinly” human civilizations as some sort of edenic ideal; when they fled Earth in different spaceships seven centuries ago, they also left behind all kinds of social evils and imperfections. Over seven centuries, they have grown into quite distinct civilizations, making the others feel “alien” even though they are both actually human.
The enthusiasm of the narrator/author and the underlying concept have saved the novel.
The universe in which the story takes place is well-built, and cultural clashes are interesting. The book clearly lays the foundation for an expansive story to come, as the author spends a lot of time building relationships and setting the scene. It feels like the universe within the story could open up further when more and more “humans” are discovered. The silver ships referenced in the title most likely refer to some non-human aliens, which the reader will probably encounter in the next book.