pinterest-7bf66.html Reviews by Peter: Star Wolf (Shattered Galaxy) by David G. Johnson

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Star Wolf (Shattered Galaxy) by David G. Johnson

Molon Hawkins, a daring, free merc captain, earns his living navigating the dangerous borders between factions in the civil war that shattered humanity’s vast star empire. For the former scout captain and his veteran command crew aboard Star Wolf, most contracts are milk runs. Most…

When a routine rescue mission goes awry, Molon finds his rescuee, Dr. John Salzmann, inextricably tied into a web of intrigue that threatens to upset the balance of power in the galaxy. Can Molon and John follow the threads and discover the forces behind the plot? If so, what can a lone ship do to stop it? 

Star Wolf is the debut novel in the exciting new Shattered Galaxy setting by David G. Johnson, bestselling author of the award-winning Chadash Chronicles series.

The Guru's Review: 

Ever since reading Time For Change, Johnson's contribution to the Realms of Our Own Anthology where Molon Hawkins was first introduced, I have wanted more of him. Others readers felt the same way and so the pressure was on Johnson to create more stories that would develop this character further.

Well, I can say that with Star Wolf, Johnson has excelled himself and exceeded the standard set in his previous novels. So many of Johnson's author friends and readers alike have stated that this is his best work. I agree.

He is even proud of this himself, as he stated in an Author/Novel spotlight on my blog in October of this year,

I personally feel this book is my best yet. I am very proud of how Star Wolf turned out, and already from early reviews, it seems critics agree. I hope you enjoy reading Star Wolf as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Now with myself and other readers saying the same, this does not negate his previous works. Johnson has had a great start with the Chadash Chronicles, Saga of the Everking, The Woman in Blue. In these novels, he showed what a talent he has for characterisation, plot structure but especially world building. He is exceptionally skilled at incorporating a Christian/Biblical worldview into all his novels (not so much in The Woman In Blue). This worldview neither dominates or preaches to its audience but actually adds a welcome spiritual layer to these novels. Even non-believers have stated they enjoyed this inclusion and were not offended by the Gospel being incorporated.

Johnson explains the Biblical aspects of this worldview,

The main ideas I wrestle with in Star Wolf are: 1) What if the Messiah tarries in His return? We have no idea when Jesus will come back, so what will faith look like several centuries in the future if we are still waiting? 2) What if we discover alien life? There are many theories, but there is nothing in Scripture that expressly says there are NOT other life forms out there. How do they fit into the fall? How do they fit into the coming judgment and redemption? I wrestle a bit with those topics in Star Wolf as well.
As one who has read all his novels, I would consider that Star Wolf is the brightest jewel in the crown of Johnson's creations. This is an impressive introduction into the science fiction genre. It now shows that Johnson can virtually write in many genres: fantasy, mystery/suspense/police procedural/noir fiction and now science fiction.

Despite Johnson's fans of Molon Hawkins wanting more of this character, I was still curious as to why he wrote this novel. He explains,

I’ve always loved Sci-Fi but was never sure if I could write it as deeply as I write Fantasy. The main character for Star Wolf, a wolf-anthro named Molon Hawkins, came about as part of a collaboration I did with other authors in my Christian Authors Group, Iron Sharpening Iron. We each submitted a character and then wrote our own multiverse reinventions using all the characters from all of the authors. That series was call Realms of Our Own and the stories can be found on Amazon. Molon was my submission. The more I thought about the character, the more I felt driven to flesh out the “real” Molon, not as part of a multiverse, but in his own setting. I had an idea for a vast setting I planned for several different storylines, and where Molon fits right in. So I fleshed out the Shattered Galaxy setting and Star Wolf was born.
Johnson is known for his detailed world building. This novel is no exception. The universe he has created for this novel is multilayered, and comprising of many factions. These are developed from what he describes as The Shattering. Even this latter event could have a prequel novel or novella that describes it in more detail that would serve to provide a firm foundation to the world-building that already exists. For a novel of this length, I can see why Johnson could not explain much of what The Shattering is and how it forms the many factions of this universe. There is a brief explanation in the Glossary of this and it is beneficial to refer to this while reading Star Wolf. Like the Chadash Chronicles and Saga of the Everking, this worldbuilding is exceptional. It forms a solid foundation for the characters, plot, technologies and species/races to exist in. Quite a richness and depth.

Speaking of the Glossary, it would pay the reader to use this when coming across a technical term. Johnson has created his own terminology and it works well. Yet another component of his worldbuilding.

This novel moves along at a pace that has many twists and turns. This keeps the reader coming back for more or delaying what the reader needs to do in their reality. This is one characteristic of what science fiction needs to be. Star Wolf seems to be a blend of being character and plot driven. Johnson has a nice balance between the two.

As far as characters are concerned, Johnson has developed Molon Hawkins to the point where he is a believable character, relatable and one that everything pivots around. I guess it has to, seeing he is the captain of Star Wolf! He has definitely come into his own here compared to the introduction of him in Time For Change. I really like what Johnson has done with Molon here. Now he is a character you won't forget in a hurry. However, this is not to say that Molon dominates the plot. It is that every plot twist or arc seems to come back to him as he decides what happens next in the aftermath of the rescue of Dr John Salzmann from his prison torturers. From this point on, we are introduced to the many political, social and religious aspects that have developed from The Shattering. Also the many species of the factions and the positive and negative dynamics of them existing in their factional territories and with each other.

However, Hawkins has chosen a crew of many of these species or sophonts, as Johnson describes them (another example of the benefit of the Glossary and also the Known Galaxy map!). These behave with an acceptance of each other for who they are, (well, within limits!). This is a great contrast to the attitude of John's wife who hates any species who are not human. She is conducting research to cure one mutation (malmorphsy) that affects one particular species. Johnson has depicted the crew of Star Wolf comprehensively according to their species type and how they form, not just a crew but a community and family. I can see readers endearing themselves to the entire crew based on this development.

There are many memorable characters in this novel, not only in The Shattered Galaxy itself but especially the crew of Star Wolf. One such is Voide. I am sure this is one character that readers will either love or hate. She is one polarising character. I love Voide but would not like to be in conflict with her. The banter between her and John was very entertaining and John gave as good as he got from her. I reckon Johnson had many laughs while creating this character and her interaction with everyone she met!

The character of John Salzmann is a very important one. Due to his role as a crew member and subject of the rescue contract Molon accepts, everything that is concerned with him, his past, marriage, his faith in the Creator and being one of the Faithful (Theocracy of the Faithful) plays an important part of the plot arc concerning him. He develops into one very strong character and one whom I can see will be further developed in the next instalments in this series. He is one of my favourite characters.

It is this research into the cure for malmorphsy that forms the basis of the adventure that the crew of Star Wolf find themselves in. During all the twists and turns, Johnson introduces the reader to the technologies of this Shattered World, the various species and their traits and the background to the war that has followed from The Shattering. The reason for the research conducted by Elena Salzmann becomes pivotal to the war. The development of the cure for Dub's malmorphsy is well sought after as a future weapon against any species. I can see parallels here with what medical science is doing to reverse or eradicate genetic deformities in the human race or to enhance human abilities. Both are well described in Star Wolf. Johnson does this very well.

I loved the depiction of the angelic and demons as separate factions, the former as the Angelicum Host and the latter as the Daemi Legonate. The introduction of one of the Angelicum, Shamira as an undercover spy in the Provisional Imperium and then as a crew member of Star Wolf sets the stage for some interesting plot arcs in the next novel. So does some of the plot arcs that Johnson leaves open for this next novel.

True to form with Johnson's inclusion of Bible tenets is one where he has the Creator being for all races/species of The Shattered Galaxy. This would then include them in His plan of salvation. Not much hint of any redemptive issues in this volume, but there is potential for Molon and others. I can see Johnson having a field day with these redemptive potentials over the course of this series. I do look forward to seeing how Johnson develops the spiritual direction from the Theocracy of the Faithful in the next novels. I liked what he developed here in this debut.

What I found very helpful while reading this was the interview with Parker J. Cole on her The Write Stuff radio show. Lots of background info into this novel, the characters, the plot and The Shattered Galaxy. And of course, Johnson's writing and his passion for it. You can access it here.

The audio version of Star Wolf has just been released and for those interested, it can be accessed here. Look out for this cover on 

This is one series that I will flag to always keep abreast with. No waiting until later to read any future instalments. Johnson is on a winner with this one. A very impressive debut into the science fiction genre. I would not mind if he stayed in this genre at the expense of his other genres even though I love them as they are. 

Highly Recommended.

World building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Spiritual level 4/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Enemy Level 2/5

Average 4.2/5 but as a whole 5/5! 

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