1/01/2010. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Stephen J. Sweeney. 343 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-9558561-0-5).
check out website: www.battleforthesolarsystem.com
'Take no prisoners, spare no lives' is the motto of the Enemy, a new threat in a future of interstellar politics and space opera. Black-clad with helmets which reveal only red oval eyes, the merciless Enemy has conquered the Empire, looms over the Independent Worlds and is about to threaten the Confederation, though it's a well kept secret.
Simon Dodds is a starfighter pilot for the Confederation, who is on suspension as our story begins for taking the initiative and getting it wrong. A mysterious stranger from the military crash lands at his parents' farm and dies on the sofa from his wounds. Shortly afterwards, Dodds is recalled to service with his team-mates, the White Knights. They are put in competition with a couple of other squadrons training on a new super-duper gee-whiz starfighter that is a giant leap forward in technology.
This is the first part of a trilogy and author Stephen J. Sweeney published himself, a bold move which made me dread reading it. However, my fears were soon allayed. The writing is perfectly competent and Stephen paid for an editor to catch any errors. He might have paid a bit more for a better editor because there are minor glitches: 'terrible memories of what she had borne witness to' isn't good grammar. The first half of the story could have moved a bit faster, too. On the whole, though, it's a nice piece of work. If this novel and its successors do not produce a living wage, Mister Sweeney might take up writing franchise fiction. He's certainly good enough.
That thought occurred because the book is inspired by 'Babylon 5' and 'Battlestar Galactica' as he freely admits on the website. The technology is similar with Jump Gates to get between the stars and big ships equipped with starfighters whose brave pilots are the heroes. The setting and props are wholly unoriginal and if there is new stuff under the sun, this isn't it. On the other hand, mainstream writers have been juggling housewives, adultery, family problems and relationship woes for a while now. It's not the ingredients that count but what you do with them.
Mister Sweeney does well. 'The Honour Of The Knights' starts slow but it's a fun ride when it gets going with suspense, treachery, mystery and feats of derring-do. The conclusion is very satisfying. Here is a tightly plotted action-adventure yarn with a good mix of likeable, interesting and nasty characters. I look forward to Book Two and raise my hat to the author for having the courage of his convictions.
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