Starfire – A Review

I bought Starfire by Stuart Stockton (Marcher Lord Press) up at Mount Hermon back in March. I’ll admit, for the most part, I wanted to support Jeff Gerke’s efforts to establish his independent press, but I also knew that Stuart Stockton, one of the founders of Speculative Faith, was a good writer. Different, but good.

Different in the way that Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, is different. You see, Stuart envisioned a world “peopled” by dinosaurs. In fact, the world is technologically advanced and the saurians are highly intelligent, so it’s different from Adams in that Stuart was not trying to recreate a world “as we know it” in which dinosaurs roam.

The Story. Rathe, a 5-5 saurian (fifth hatchling of his sire’s fifth brood) wants to rise above his station. When a chance encounter with one of the feared Jerkrenak—wounded and dying—allows him to claim its fang and rescue a hatchling, he is elevated to a position in the warrior class of the Karn Empire.

When he completes his training and earns a spot in a prestigious Klaw, he and the rest of his Spur encounter an insurgent enemy patrol on their first mission—a simple escort assignment to bring back a group of engineers. During the battle, Rathe follows one of those in their party who runs away. The little Spika stumbles on a hidden cavern filled with ancient—and advanced—technology. She triggers some procedure that superimposes technology on her body. As Rathe tries to extricate her, she claims him as her protector.

Upon returning to the others in the Spur, they learn that the little Spika is connected to a rumored super-weapon known as the Starfire. Her goal is to reach her maximum capacity, then launch the Starfire.

However, Rathe encounters another Jerkrenak, members of a group known as Wayfarers who worship a God they call VorTolKo, and a prophet-like person all warning him to destroy the Spika before she can activate Starfire.

With his beloved empire in greater and greater danger from the enemy, and his affection for the little Spika growing, should Rathe help launch Starfire on their enemies or listen to those who warn that the temporary peace Starfire will bring will be followed by greater destruction than can be imagined?

Strengths. The world. First and foremost, Stuart has created a consistent and believable world populated by Saurians, not humans. He gives his characters Saurian mannerisms, creates a hierarchy based on their differing qualities, skillfully deals with problems such as how the smaller Saurians co-exist with the larger, and so on. The details are included as necessary, and therefore never seem overbearing, nor do they bog the story down.

The characters are also wonderfully drawn. Certainly Rathe, who is the point-of-view character, is the one the reader is most attached to. But because of his role as Karey Or’s Protector, it’s easy to feel for her as Rathe does.

Stuart did a good job imbuing his characters with believable motivations. He also sets up internal conflict to go along with the external.

The plot is filled with external conflict that sends the story racing along at a good clip. There is action, intrigue, suspense, danger, surprises, twists, and turns.

The theme is clear but not because the author is trying to drill it into the reader. Rather, as a natural part of who each character is, the story themes surface.

Weakness. The only thing I can think is that perhaps more could be done on the back cover to sell the story to those of us not inclined to pick up a book staring dinosaurs. Again, I am reminded of Watership Down, one of my favorite books. To say it’s a story about rabbits is to do it an incredible injustice, and yet, it is just such a story. How can this be? Only by the skill of the writer who makes rabbits feel believably, humanly sentient. Stuart accomplished the same feat, I think. But I think it takes some selling to convince readers they will care about these Saurians. Maybe I’m wrong.

Recommendation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read. For those who love science fantasy or perhaps even science fiction, this is a must read.

Published in: on December 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm  Comments (6)  
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