June 28th, 2009

book 1

War of the Soulites by Natasha Bennett

Publisher: Lyrical, 2009
Genre: Science Fiction
Sub-genre: Military



Read the full, spoiler-free review here.

Eighteen years ago, the Vigilant was a special ship. It carried the best crew in the universe, handpicked by NAVA, and was instrumental in charting the galaxy until something happened, something nobody can explain. For some reason, the crew turned on each other and murdered each other until there was only one survivor, whose testimony of the event was less than reliable.

Now the historical vessel has been restored and set up for duty under the newly appointed Captain Renolds. Usually more of a bureaucrat, Renolds is delighted at his new captaincy until he learns a little more about the crew given to him. Rather than permitting him to choose his own officers, NAVA assigns them to him, including a group of mistrusted telepaths, a chief engineer who doubles as a human experiment with alien hardware in his head, the Vigilant's previous survivor, and worst of all, Marcus Collingway.

During the war eleven years ago, Mark was one of the key members of the rebellion against NAVA. He's responsible for acts of genocide and committed more atrocities than Renolds can even imagine, and is the last person in the universe the captain wants to trust with his ship. Renolds may not have a choice, though, because almost as soon as the Vigilant ships out, history begins to repeat itself. If he can get to the bottom of the dark secrets hidden by his crew members, they might not only figure out what's going on, but get through it alive. Maybe.

As might be expected, Mark and Renolds have opposite views on almost everything, but this isn't a "buddy cop" film. The story is covered from both their perspectives without trying to draw a conclusion on who's in the right, and while the two are able to set aside their differences when it comes to a life or death situation, the book doesn't end with them skipping off into the sunset having gained new perspective and a shiny best friend. That they each hold to their own convictions is a big part of what made War of the Soulites so interesting to delve into.

The stilted dialogue and occasionally awkward prose kept distracting me. It's obviously not a good sign when you start mentally editing while reading, and always leads me to wonder where the copy editor was. That being said, the story and ideas had me picking up the book again to find out what would happen next. There is a solid story here, so if you're the type of reader for whom content matters more than anything else, War of the Soulites may be something you'd like to consider.