Sunday 3 September 2017

Jewel of The Stars - Season 1, Episode 1 - Earth's Remnant by Adam David Collings

Jewel of The Stars - Season 1, Episode 1 - Earth's Remnant

The Cruise is Over

Haylee was more confident designing starships than raising an autistic child. She just wants a relaxing holiday with her family. But when Earth falls to an alien armada, she knows life will never be the same again.

Les was just a cruise ship captain. Now, he must rise up and become something greater, if he is to keep his crew and passengers alive.

Braxton never wanted to leave the space navy, but now, taking a cruise is the only way to feel the stars around him. This crisis may be his ticket to regaining the life he thought was gone forever.

Can they overcome their differences and save everyone on the ship?

If they reach unexplored space, they might yet survive, but an unstoppable enemy stands in their way…

The Guru's Review: 

I am so glad that I offered to review this novella. This is the author's debut novella being published outside of the three anthologies where his other short stories are published.

Jewel of the Stars is a wonderful, engaging, novella! Pure entertainment with 100% science fiction space opera action and adventure. Collings has created a world of the future that is very much believable. It seems to be right at the front door of our reality. It would not surprise me that going on a space cruise for a holiday as depicted in this novel could occur within the next 50 years. I read an article this week that stated that the technology for warp speed is much closer now. 

Despite the 116 page length of this novella, Collings succeeds in showing enough of this futuristic setting and technology. It is set 100 years from now and I could picture what this would be like. I found myself likening this to some world building of the last two Star Trek movies. I say that as a compliment to Collings. 

I am glad that I found the free prequel short story, The Fall of the HMAS Adelaide. This prequel lays the foundation of the alien invasion of Earth and the attempts of its crew to alert Earth's authorities of this invasion. This novella is referenced by Braxton in Jewel of the Stars. I would like to see more of this connection between Captain Evelyn and Braxton in future episodes. I would suggest that readers of this series read this free prequel before reading JotS. It can be found here.

I kept thinking while reading the prequel that Captain Evelyn Bilingara is very much like Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager. Not sure if that what Collings wants us to picture from this depiction. And Ethan reminds me so much of Commander Oren Monash in Deep Impact. 

The main theme depicted in this prequel is a subtle Christian one of self-sacrifice. The decision that Captain Bilingara is forced to make is one that any human would find the most difficult. Its consequences are almost hard to bear and to the point of wondering if you would be able to come to terms with it if you were to survive it. Maybe that is why those that make this decision do not and have to be an integral part of the consequence of this decision. 

Even this prequel is engaging and one you cannot put down in one sitting. It does whet your appetite for Jewel of the Stars. 

Collins has obviously researched the technology and world building elements he has included in this novella and its prequel. I appreciate this as it forms a solid foundation for this episode and adds credibility as well as plausibility. Not once did I feel that any of the depicted technology or how it was used was questionable or far fetched. 

Collings has constructed this novel based on 3 main characters. These intersect with each other when this alien invasion threatens their livelihood. I found myself becoming endeared to all three but my favourite would be Braxton White. He is the rebel, bordering on being a renegade who likes to take risks, change the rules to suit the situation he is in and lives on an adrenaline rush. An action man. 

Captain Les Miller is the typical "by the book" type of leader. He sees that this way provides safety for the crew and for space travel and does not like to deviate from this. The events of this novel definitely challenge his status quo and modus operandi and take him out of his comfort zone. He is not the same Captain after this novella finishes. 

Haylee Scott is a weapons engineer who has been made redundant and now with an uncertain future. She is the typical career woman and devoted mother. I felt for her in volunteering her expertise in retrieving and installing the weapon from the USS Boston, realising that she may not make it back to her family. I appreciated the interaction that she and her husband had and his point of view when she was about to leave on this mission. That was heart-wrenching and if Collings had developed this even further, I would have been in tears. Being a parent, you place yourself in their shoes and can fully appreciate what this would mean if I had to make this decision. 

One thing Collings portrayed well in this novella is the dynamics between Braxton and Miller. Being a military trained man, Braxton instantly sees that now they are under threat of alien attack and are defenceless, all the rules that govern this civilian ship should be ignored and they adopt as much as possible defence tactics to secure their survival. Miller is bent on remaining by the book and not putting the safety of the civilian passengers at risk when they are not a military orientated ship. The clash of expectations, focus and personalities show what this would be like in the future if civilian space vessels are not prepared when placed in unplanned military conflict. 

One of the aspects that shone for me is how Collings has taken this civilian crew of The Jewel of the Stars and developed them into a pseudo military unit over such a short period of time due to the urgency of the situation and what its outcome could be if no action is to be taken. This provides much of the action, adventure and suspense in the second half of this novella. I became further endeared to Haylee as she was pivotal in this part of the plot. I was not prepared for the outcome concerning her. Speaking of such, I felt that Collings could have dealt with the aftermath of this affecting her family better than he has. Maybe this will be addressed in the next episode. It needs to be. This is an important issue seeing how emotional their parting was and what this meant as I have described above, and how it played such an important dynamic in the development of the plot arc here.

Having the conflict between the alien and Braxton was well done. It showed what the crew of the Jewel of the Stars are up against and the degree of the threat against them and therefore Earth. I was not prepared for the last aggressive interaction between this alien and the weapon retrieval crew and its outcome. I felt this was a clever move on Collings' part. 

Collings has not included obvious Christian themes in this debut instalment. I learnt from the author (from material he provided for an Author/Novel Spotlight post I will be publishing next week) that this series is designed for the wider sci-fi audience and not specifically the Christian market. The only obvious Christian theme is at the end. A minor character explains a biblical allegory of what they have become since defeating the alien and cannot return to Earth: a remnant, similar to that of Israel in Old Testament times. Once this is explained, the reader sees where the title of this instalment has its basis. 

Collings ends this novella on a positive and satisfying note with more than enough anticipation for the next episode. I loved how the crew are now more unified and have become a hybrid crew of civilian origins but now military focused as they are now in a war for their survival, being the last free citizens of planet Earth. 

I firmly believe that Collings is on a winner with this series. It has a very promising future. This is even better than what I was expecting when I read this novella's description. 

Highly Recommended.

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