Self-publishing has always been a double-edged sword. On one hand it gives struggling writers the chance to prove all those pesky editors wrong and show the world what brilliant wordsmiths they are. Unfortunately many of these authors, and I use the term authors very loosely here, turns out not to be brilliant wordsmiths, quite the contrary, many of them should dig in at their day-jobs with a fervor. The increased possibility of self-publishing on large and renowned sites like Amazon have greatly increased the amount of dirt you have to dig through before you find gold. And believe me, I have dug through a lot of dirt.
Well, enough about dirt and more about the flowers that may grow in that soil.
Today i will talk about one of the times I found gold, and this last gold vein came in the form of a space opera. No surprise there, I love space opera, actually I think I could sustain myself both mentally and physically on space operas alone.
The work I am talking about is the brilliant trilogy “The Aurora Rising” by american writer G. S. Jennsen (no, I don’t know what the G and the S stands for, possibly Great Sorceress). The three books making up the trilogy are Starshine, Vertigo and Transcendence. There is also a short story, Restless, which tells the story of how the two main protagonists become who they are at the start of the main story.
The main character in Aurora Rising is Alexis Solovy, whose mother is one of earths top ranked military leaders while her father was a famous war hero killed in battle. Yeah I know, no pressure there.
With parents such as these I guess its no surprise that Alexis turned out to be brilliant, both in mental and physical prowess. And she looks like a goddess, that goes without saying, she is the main character in a SciFi novel after all. Her main forte however is as a spaceship pilot, not as you may surmise in the military but as an independent space explorer. And space exploration turns out to be rather lucrative, Alexis is nauseatingly rich. The money mostly goes into her spaceship that, at the beginning at least, is the closest thing she comes to a lover.
During one of her voyages to the extreme fringes of known space, she by chance discovers an enormous armada of alien spaceships exiting from what seems to be a portal of sorts. It soon becomes apparent that the aliens have not come in peace, quite the contrary, they are after conquest. No, not conquest, their goal is anhilation of the human race. Why? you may ask. Well I can tell you, but then I would have to kill you afterwards! Sorry about that, I have always wanted to utter that sentence, the truth is that to tell you would spoil to much.
At the same time as Alexis makes her discovery, she also meet the other main character, Caleb Marano.
Caleb is the enemy, hailing from a group of worlds called The Senecan Federation that broke with the rest of of the now over 100 populated planets in the known galaxy 40 years ago. This break-up turned into a galaxy-spanning war between the Senecans and the Earth Alliance, a war that left a chasm between the two groups that until recently seemed impossible to bridge.
Caleb is not just the enemy, he is also a killer and a spy, and he is probably the best there is in both areas. And, again this being a SciFi space opera, he is very very good looking and with a physique that makes even straight men walk into a closet just so they can come out of it.
The first meeting between Alexis and Caleb does not end well, as a matter of fact it ends rather disastrous with Caleb’s spaceship being shot down by Alexis, stranding him on a desolated planet with only hours left before he runs out of air. The personal drama aspect of the first book centers around how these two strong personalities manage to find some common ground……and maybe something more.
Having discovered the invading armada you should think that it was only for Alexis and Caleb to return to inhabited space and alert their respective governments about the danger. The the Senecans and the alliance can put aside their differences and gang up on those pesky aliens. After all, relations between those two governments have started to thaw lately so this common threat should be enough to break the last barriers to lasting peace and cooperation. Unfortunately not all humans see a normalization of relations as a preferable outcome, and while Alexis and Caleb has been gallivanting around in deep space, some of these human have set in motion events that very soon could bring humankind to the edge of extinction.
The Aurora Rising trilogy is a good read, a very good read in fact. You are thrown into action and suspense from the start and the plot of the story unravels at a satisfying pace, all the time giving the feeling of deeper and even more nefarious revelations to come. Aside from a good and believable story its the characters who really make or unmake a book, and here Jennsen really shines. All the persons you are introduced to are believable and multi-dimensional. Sure, you have your prototype villains and your knights in shiny armor, but even these shows layers in their personalities.
Another thing that in my humble opinion is essential to a good story, that being SciFi, fantasy, crime or thrillers, is the presents of a good villain or villains. In SciFi this is often the aliens and so also in Aurora Rising, but especially in the first two book they are more of a background threat. The main antagonists in these books are found among the humans, both in the Earth Alliance and in the Senecan Federation, and on my personal villain-o-meter they mostly score 8-9/10 (the only one in history to score 10/10 is of course Darth Vader). Their motivations are nicely described and are often multilayered its seldom just evil for evils sake.
If I should point out one aspect that didn’t fill me with joy, it must be the eyes. Yes, yes, I will explain.
There is a saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and this book takes that sentiment to the extremes. The amount of information especially Alexis and Caleb are able to glean from each others eyes is staggering. Love, hate, despair, amusement and indigestion, you feel it, they can see it in your eyes.
But this a very very minor point, all in all The Aurora Rising is a must-read and I think that the fact that it is self-published is more a choice of the author then a result of rejections from editors.
I have also listened to the audiobook version of Starshine and was very happy with it. Brilliantly read by Pyper Down who really gives life to the characters.
So my advice is: Buy it!