Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark

Forget what you know about science fiction writing. Do not expect the usual tropes. What hides within the pages of Forsaken Skies is not what you have come to expect of science fiction stories. D. Nolan Clark gives you an exciting chase at the beginning and then drops you onto a poly space station servicing the usual travelers, freight, and soldiers on their way to wars or stopping on their way from a war. That is where the story stalls and where I almost gave up on Clark's tale.

The chase was exciting -- a battle hardened pilot chasing down a kid fleeing from a murder in an expensive racing yacht nearly colliding with an automated container ship hauling . . . passengers? From that point the story gets weirder and boring. What could I expect from the commander of a space station who never gets out of his space suit or lowers his helmet? Or an elder from a breakaway group and her aspirant coming to meet a con man intending to fleece them of four years of improvements for their desolate planet? Or a marine who used to be a pilot afraid to fly? Or even an ace turned con man to pay off his debts? Forget about the rich kid in the pricey yacht or the 300-year-old pilot turned rich man's bodyguard and his ex-second in command who redirects a wing of Navy planes for a fool's errand. You won't get the real story unless you can get through the sketchy details about characters who seem to be cut from substandard literary cloth. Clark has buried the lead so far down the wormhole it will take determination and curiosity greater than Pandora's to get to the whole point of Forsaken Skies so why bother?

I bothered because not because I enjoy the minute details of hard science fiction, but because I wanted to give Clark a chance to show me something worth my time.

And he did.

It took two-thirds of the book to get to it. It was almost worth plodding through the dross to find the Arkenstone of Clark's series.

Forsaken Skies earned 4/5 stars for taking so long to get to the meat. The other four stars are because the meat was worth the trek as the characters earn their salt in their corporate monopoly (hence poly) control by reducing humanity to the bottom line of a balance sheet. Even heroism counts only if it is profitable. An old campaigner like Aleister Lanoe had to fight for a cause he finally believed in by riding to the rescue of an impoverished elder of a barren planet nearly killed by a wealthy kid fleeing the murder of his father in Daddy's private racing yacht.

D. Nolan Clark may start a trend with his storytelling. All told, Forsaken Skies was worth digging to the heart of the mountain for the payoff. In the end, I liked Lanoe's worthy cause. At least it didn't take me 300 years to share it with Lanoe.

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