Galaxy Blues Hardcover – Apr 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This grand interstellar adventure exemplifies Hugo-winner Steele's skill with near-future tech and struggle with human interactions. Kicked out of the Western Hemisphere Union Astronautica space fleet, 20-ish Jules Truffaut cleverly stows away on the Robert E. Lee, bound for the Coyote Federation, where he intends to defect. Circumstances force him to accept a mysterious job as shuttle pilot for billionaire Morgan Goldstein, who's plotting to corner trade with the alien hjadd. Steele (Spindrift) makes in-flight technicalities almost tangible, and he equips his hissing, grunting, slithering aliens with convincing motivations. He's less adept at portraying the human crew who accompany Truffaut to a vast space city, where the interstellar coalition called the Talus must decide whether to allow humans to join. Subplots such as Jules's attraction to sexy crew member Rain Thompson and Goldstein's predictable big-boss machinations are tepid, even stereotypical, but a rousing climax rescues the crew and the novel from boredom. (Apr.)
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About the Author
Allen Steele was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and received his B.A. in Communications from New England College and a Masters Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri. Before turning to science fiction, he worked as a staff writer for newspapers in Tennessee, Missouri, and Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C. His previous novels include Orbital Decay; Lunar Descent; Clarke County, Space; Labyrinth of Night; Jericho Iteration; The Tranquility Alternative; Oceanspace, and Chronospace (all available from Ace). He is a two-time winner of the Hugo Award in the novella category. He lives with his wife, Linda, in Whately, Massachusetts.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
First the good points. This is an easy to read book. It flows well. It is a good book to read while spending the day in airports - it passes the time and does not distract or compel one with plot or sterling characters or such. Sort of a "B" movie book.
Now to why this was a disappointment. This author is a story teller. He is the sort that could take a day in the office and turn it into a riveting tale. His character development and story setup are superb. Usually. Not here.
Jules, main character, is allegedly the product of excellent military training and background. Yet the character acts more like a teenage drama queen. It is evident the character has never developed the habits of command or discipline. His reaction to authority is displaying juvenile 'attitude' at best. This bloke has never been subject to a military environment and this is a serious lapse for this author.
The mission commander has never commanded before from the very stereotype actions and reactions. Given that this is a dude (and his wife) who has actually lived with the aliens they were pretty ignorant in dealing with them. Given their also supposed military background they provided no sort of a mission brief or prep. Just not typical of professionals at the level they should be at.
Come on, hiring someone who did not even know how to don a space suit properly with no pre-mission training? I will buy the politics of hiring powerful folks girl who has no experience - but the lack of training or oversight is criminal. Sorry, I live and work with military professionals and such actions just do not run true.
Let me pull up short here as I am just running on due to being disappointed in this book. In summary, the mind reader is the most believable character. The rich guy's character is as substantial as smoke. The pilot, don't go there as that character is soooo poorly built. Etc. Maybe this was supposed to be a book for the teen age audience?
In short, the expected believable characters and development of these is lacking in this book. The sense of the author 'spinning a tale' is absent.
Do not give up on the author for this book. No one is perfect and his track record is pretty impressive till this clunker. And it an easy to read book for a clunker.
If this is the first book you have read by this author, try another before X'ing him from your read list.
-Starting around page 247, the characters have to accelerate their main ship to 2.5 x 10^3 km/s and cover 1.5 AU (2.25 x 10^8 km) in 30 hours. They seem to do this at 1g. But, running those numbers means it would take about twice as long at that acceleration. The only way I can make the time come close is to assume instantaneous acceleration to that speed (and they don't have that capability).
-Then, while at "cruise velocity" (2.5 x 10^3 km/s), they have to take off in another ship and land it within 1.3 x 10^5 km and 7 hours. Again, the writing implies at most 1g deceleration (actually, it implies they coast there and only decelerate during the last "couple of hundred miles). But, by my calculations, without decelerating, that "coast" would have lasted a grand total of 52 seconds. Even if they had started decelerating immediately, it would call for a deceleration of 500,000g to slow down from that speed in that distance. Going back to rendezvous with the main ship, the numbers are about an order of magnitude even worse.
Overall, the book is decent. It's good for a couple of hours of light entertainment. But, with the science problems and simplistic behaviors, the best I can rate it as an OK 3 stars out of 5.
I couldn't resist that opening, though the hapless hero of this tale seems unlikely to deliver on the promise. Jules was expelled from the Union Astronautical space fleet. The only way he'd ever see space again would be if he could somehow reach the Coyote Federation, defect and offer his services and training there.
Jules is competent, intelligent and motivated... but he also isn't blameless in getting booted from his former position and he also seems unable to keep himself out of trouble. He's imprisoned on Coyote--but jumps at the only way out: an offer of employment by the richest man on the planet who is planning a mysterious trade expedition to an alien planet in an old bucket of a spacecraft along with crew that consists of an inexperienced girl who got hired because of her connections and a mysterious, blues-playing drunk.
Still, Jules is at heart a good guy, and though things can go very bad for him they are rollicking adventures, and we have the promise that all ends up a bit better than it would seem for the fellow.
The aliens and their culture were fun, the back-water but still independent and prominent Coyote is fun, the crazy crew and obnoxious million/billionaire was fun; and Jules and his wild trip made for one good read.