The Lost Destroyer
Volume 3 of “The Lost Starship.”
By Vaughn Heppner
Published by Vaughn Heppner
Read by Mark Boyett
So, Starship Victory, an ancient vessel not so much commanded by Captain Maddox as negotiated by Maddox and the ship’s “deified” AI, Galyan, manages a resounding defeat of the vastly superior “New Men,” but while en-route back to Earth, Maddox and his small crew discover a planet-destroying machine inside an ion storm. However, there is a traitor on board and soon that planet destroyer is on its way to Earth, pausing only to wipe out a few worlds and their defending fleets along the way.
The synopsis sounds good, but I guess I am in the minority in my opinion of this book and of the series it is a part of.
First of all, the antagonists are pretty much all the same. It doesn’t matter if they are the “New Men,” the “Methuselahs,” people from high-gravity worlds, or alien artificial intelligences. They are all smugly arrogant in their assurance that they are better than the normal humans (who are actually in rather short supply among the characters) and spend far too much time telling everyone else how much smarter and/or stronger they are. If Heppner’s future world had Twitter, I swear you would be unable to distinguish their Tweets from the torrent of self-congratulatory verbal diarrhea that spews from Donald Trump’s account. As many people pointed out recently, a truly intelligent person does not need to keep going on about how smart he or she is and, in most cases, they won’t. So, my first instinct on reading this book is that none of these “supermen,” who ought to be directly vying with each other over the dominance of Mankind, sound all that intelligent. In fact, they sound more like they are trying to convince themselves rather than intimidate the lowly mere humans they are addressing. However, they seem to have convinced the normal folk (and even the main characters of the series) that they really are better.
I’m still not convinced. In this book, at least one of the “New Men” has managed to infiltrate the government and military of Earth and can deliver orders, unbeknownst to the top brass, to the entire fleet. Meanwhile, they know the planet-killer thing is on its way (and apparently want it to come, so they can use it), but the only orders sent out are to arrest Maddox and shut down Victory. Seriously? Why? It might be more effective to order the fleet away into the wrong part of space, or simply command all ships to engage in “radio-silence.” Or give any number of orders on Earth itself, but, no, they go after Maddox and his ship. Why not simply send orders to Maddox to go somewhere else?
The Methuselah Men appear to be just as silly at times, proof that a high IQ does not mean much if you do not actually think through solving a problem. They have a whole different Machiavellian way of thinking and also seem to have because a strong “shadow force” within the Earth Government , but they, too, seem to like complex and uncertain schemes (that show how clever they are???) where a few simple actions would be more effective. I won’t go into details – spoilers – but they should be easy to spot.
In all, what could be a vastly entertaining space opera just grinds on with the same “I’m much better than you are, you lowly worm, so just stop fighting and bow down to me” rhetoric with a lot of action scenes in between the braggadocio, leaving me with the feeling that I have seen all this before. It might be nice if, just once, a knowledgeable and intelligent character was actually helpful and not setting up the main cast for betrayal, though.
Well, Like I said, I seem to be in the minority and the book has received much better reviews elsewhere, so maybe it is just me.
Mark Boyett reads the story passably. I was neither wowed nor disappointed by his reading. His presentation could have used a bit more character, but then I was not constantly groaning and being tempted to turn it off either. It’s not bad, it’s not great, but as I said, it’s quite passable.
So, while the book is not to my taste and neither the characters nor the situation ever really develop (one or the other at least, please!) It’s passable and technically better than a lot of the trash that is out there. I don’t think most readers will throw it in the far corner of their room convinced they could do better… (well I think I could do better, but remember I’m a self-published author too), so for a gritty space opera, it’s not horrible and Mister Boyett’s reading might even enhance it a bit.