Hey, I’m an equal opportunity book reviewer. I read a lot of high class literature and an equal amount of low-brow schlock. And you know what’s interesting? I find that either category can be highly entertaining, or a depressing drag.
Upon reading FORBIDDEN THE STARS I found myself enjoying a light-weight heap of pure science fiction fun. I was joyfully carried away by this fast-pace romp across the solar system. However, after I finished the last page, all of the things that are wrong with the book began to gnaw at my critical mind, and I began to feel dirty inside.
It’s a strange feeling. It’s like, “Well, I really enjoyed that, but I shouldn't have.” But that’s ridiculous. If a writer can provide you with a few hours of enjoyment, why raise a stink? Why pick it apart? If you enjoy it – it's mission accomplished.
But seriously, I think there is more right with this book than wrong. First the good:
1. Pacing: Despite the droopy opening chapters, author VALMORE DANIELS quickly hits his stride, gets his plot in gear and this book takes off like an interstellar spaceship. Things start happening, cliff hangers get hung, problems are presented, characters strive to overcome them, and we cheer them on.
2. Good science: One of the biggest problems with most science fiction books today is that few writers are trying, or even making the merest pretense of providing some solid plausibility by including some speculative background science – speculative science that is grounded in real science.
Good “hard science fiction” should have a certain techno-geek element, and Daniels delivers that in spades. His theoretical description of a new element that can deliver faster-than-light travel is super wonky, technical, yet believable. He gets high marks on this from me. I like it when science fiction writers make an effort.
3. Plot: The plot is intricate, yet hangs together with ease. I like a complex plot, which is nevertheless easy to follow. While Daniels’ plot is highly derivative – meaning it’s not all that original -- it is well-executed.
4. Science-fictiony feel: Can is say, “science-fictiony?” Well, I just did. But you know what I mean. Those of us who dig science fiction love getting immersed in that feeling of being in a futuristic world of space ships that are flitting out and about among the planets of the solar system. There’s cool gadgetry, robotics and all that. Boffo!
Now let’s talk about the bad:
1. Characters: The characters in this book are as thin as hydrogen gas. With the slight exception of the pivotal character, young Alex Manez, the rest of the characters are bland cookie cutters that lack depth. What depth they do have is generated by one big cliché after another.
2. Unfinished business: There is a major plot element in this book that absolutely inexplicably gets left hanging. I can’t describe it because it would require a “spoiler warning.” So let me put the issue behind behind by asking this question:
“Hey, Valmore Daniels! What in the Sam hell happened to Chow Yin! I mean, seriously, what happened to him, Dude?”
There, it felt good to get that off my chest.
3. Plot: Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I include “plot” as one of the good aspects? Yes, but I am also going to complain mightily here that the plot is highly, highly derivative. Anyone who has ever one of Ben Bova’s “Tour of the Solar System” series of books – will find this book a weak imitation of the masterful Bova style and his conception of a near-future universe where space travel is robust and developing.
4.The title: “Forbidden the Stars?” Man, that’s corny!
But – let's just admit it -- this is a terrific read that delivered a neutron-star-load of fun and entertainment for me. I loved it. Get a copy, kick back and enjoy the interplanetary ride!
(NOTE: As of this writing, this book was being offered on Amazon.com as a free Kindle selection HERE).
Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA