The Otissito Review

Category: Hard Science Fiction

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Book Review: "A Sword Into Darkness" by Thomas A. Mays

A Sword Into DarknessTitle: A Sword Into Darkness
Author: Thomas A. Mays
Publisher: Stealth Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2014
Length: 302 pages

Obtained: I believe I grabbed a copy of A Sword Into Darkness because it showed up in an email from Amazon about books I might like. It looked intriguing so I gave it a shot.

The Plot: Gordon Elliot Lee is a genius aerospace tycoon with so much money he can afford to indulge in his obsession with outer space. One day he discovers what he believes to be some sort of alien craft approaching earth from a far away star. He tries to convince NASA about the “threat” of such a thing, but they laugh in his face. So, what does he do? He decides to bankroll the research, experimentation, and construction of his own spaceship. The thing is, his spaceship is going to be armed to the teeth because he is convinced that the aliens headed for Earth have no good intentions.

To assist him in his endeavor, Gordon Lee recruits Nathan Kelley and Kris Munoz to run point on all of the many spinning cogs involved in such a plan. They work for years and years putting together teams, funding projects, and discovering technological advancements that would put to shame the technology of the general public. They have a lot of time to get things right because while the mysterious aliens are making steady progress on their journey, they have a long way to go.

Eventually the military and NASA are forced to admit that Gordon Lee was right, so they jump in to assist, but that isn’t all they want to do and Nathan Kelley is forced to throw them out the door so to speak in order to make sure the mission happens as it was first envisioned, and not as some mockery of the original plan. What Nathan and Kris discover upon making contact with the aliens is so far gone from what they expected that they are unsure how to proceed. Events transpire that put the two of them in a position to make a very big splash when the climax of the story arrives.

The Commentary: To my understanding, A Sword Into Darkness is the debut effort of Thomas A. Mays. The best way to describe the book is as a mix of hard science fiction, military science fiction, and space opera. All of these pieces are woven together into a tapestry that for the most part, works pretty well. As a debut novel, it does have a few things here and there that could use some improvement, but oftentimes those kinds of things are distracting. In this book they are not distracting, and some of them are only noticeable to me as a result of just how many books I read. If I wasn’t so voracious in my reading a lot of those things would pass right on by.

The book is a rather quick read at 300 pages, so it isn’t something that’s going to bog you down as a reader. I liked that. I think more debut novels need to be that way, long enough to tell a decent story, but short enough to leave the reader wanting a little more to entice them to read that author’s next project. I was really impressed with Nathan Kelley as a character, but a little bit less so with Gordon Lee. The former had a lot more development as the story moved along and with the later I was left filling in a lot of gaps.

I’m glad I took a chance on the book though. I enjoy hard science fiction every so often and having that element mixed in with a more traditional science fiction tale was a nice perk for me as a reader. Balancing between the two could probably use a little work by the author, but that’s something I think can be worked out easily enough.

Needs More: Character development. The hard science portions were spot on and very well put together, but I think due to the length of the novel the characters suffered a little bit in order to fit in the science. That is something I expect the author can easily remedy in future projects without much trouble.

Needs Less: Repetition. I loved the science in the book, but in a few cases the same science was repeated over and over and it would have been nice to use that space for a little more character development, or some more action added to the scenes.

Worth It? Yes, I think A Sword Into Darkness is worth it. The science is interesting, at least a couple of characters mesh well, and the others that don’t still hold up okay. I liked that it was short and didn’t try to do more than what it was claiming to be. That worked really well in the end.

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