Monday, April 18, 2011

Alpha Redemption

I've been wanting to read Alpha Redemption by P. A. Baines for a while. It was one of the entrants in the Marcher Lord Select contest a few years back and it caught my attention. It seemed like my kind of book: space travel, an AI, strong religious content. When I heard that the book was snatched up by Splashdown Books, I was excited that I'd be able to read the whole thing true.

This is the story of Brett Denton, a man with nothing to lose. He's signed up to travel on an experimental ship called the Comet to Alpha Centauri. His only companion will be a computer named Jay, one with a capacity for learning and a lot of questions. But a problem on the journey threatens both of them and there's a serious possibility that neither one will make it back to Earth in one piece.

The story starts out very strong and Baines throws in some very good complications. Jay was engaging as a character and I loved the way his character evolved. Baines alternates between the trip to Alpha Centauri and flashbacks to Brett's life (told in reverse). As much as I got sucked into the story, it all kind of unraveled once the Comet reached Alpha Centauri.

I'm not sure what exactly the problem was. There was a new complication added to the plot that felt tacked on and underutilized. The flashbacks began to feel more disconnected from the overall plot (and I wound up skimming them so I could get back to the story that I wanted to read). And the ultimate redemption scene felt rushed and a bit unnatural.

My only other gripe is the British grammar. I realize that Splashdown Books is based in New Zealand and, by and large, the extra "u" in some words or spelling skeptical with a "c" didn't bother me. There were times, though, when the characters sounded like they were on the wrong side of the ocean. I think Brett and company are supposed to be Americans, but there were times when their voices rang false. For example, at one point, a character said, "You have post." Um, I've never heard anyone say it that way. Not a big deal, but it kind of futzed with my brain every now and then.

All in all, it was an okay read. Not spectacular, but I ultimately enjoyed it.

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