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Sunborn by Jeffrey A. Carver

1/04/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Sunborn (The Chaos Chronicles book 4) in the USA - or Buy Sunborn (The Chaos Chronicles book 4) in the UK

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Sunborn (The Chaos Chronicles book 4) by Jeffrey A. Carver. pub: TOR/Forge. 430 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $27.95 (US), $30.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-312-86453-8.

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Be warned that 'Sunborn' by Jeffrey A. Carver is the fourth volume in a series, ‘The Chaos Chronicles’ and NOT a standalone book. That said, it stands alone reasonably well and it didn't take too long to get to know the intrepid heroes.

There are five principle fleshy characters and several energy beings. The five made of mere matter are: John Bandicut, a human; Antares, a Thespi female who is John's girlfriend; Ik, a Hraachee'an; Li Jared, a Karellian and Julie, another human who has a separate adventure back on Triton, one of Neptune's moons. The first four characters, who seem to have worked together in the previous ‘Chaos Chronicles’, have their adventures in the Orion Nebula where stars are dying.

As well as the matter people, there are intelligent energy beings, not least the stars themselves which are sentient. First there is Ed. What can be seen of Ed looks like a fried egg but he is only partly in our dimension. Deep is a space-time fluctuation from another universe who entered ours when his was dying. Delilah is another space-time fluctuation from the same universe as Deep. There is some sort of quark creature called Charlene that lives inside John Bandicut's head. There are also the imperilled stars, Nick, Brightburn and Thunder who are being made to explode too early in their long lives by some very ancient evil force. I won't reveal the evil force because that would be giving away the plot. I got a bit confused with the energy beings at times, forgetting which name attached to what qualities but that may be because I'm getting old.

The four heroes can communicate despite being from different worlds because they each have translator stones buried in their flesh somewhere, which they picked up in earlier adventures. The translator stones are sentient and are hinted to be ancient, like the bad guys. There is a big Translator creature on Triton which talks to Julie, a friend of John Bandicut, and leads her on another daring mission as part of a connected sub-plot. As a matter of fact, I found Julie's story the most enjoyable part of the book.

There are loveable robots called Napoleon and Copernicus, cutely shortened to Nappy and Coppy, who call John Bandicut 'Cap'n'. The matter aliens behave exactly the same as humans except that Ik says 'Hrrrm' when he is thinking and 'Hraah' when he is alarmed. Presumably this is because he is a Hraachee'an. Li-Jared bongs when dismayed and flicks his fingers when agitated. Antares says 'Uhhll' a lot, even though she is a Thespi not an Uhhllian. She also has four breasts which are mentioned in tandem with John Bandicut's male organs to make this an adult book.

Which is a shame because it is not. The cute robots, the little mannerisms to differentiate characters, the whole style of the thing makes it suitable for young adults or smart juveniles. Notwithstanding the cosmic plot, there isn't enough depth for an adult SF novel and the cute stuff is mildly irritating to a grown-up or at least, to this grown-up. The bit of sex thrown in adds very little to the story except to show us that John Bandicut and Antares are in love. I say a bit because it’s probably about a hundred words in the whole book but it takes the novel into adult territory as far as marketing goes.

As a juvenile space opera, 'Sunborn' would be great, if a little slow to get started. As an adult novel, it's okay but the cuteness is annoying. Even so, just as excellent children's books can be enjoyed by adults so, too, can this. However, for both younger and older readers I would suggest reading the first three in the series first. Possibly this might reveal hidden depths to the characters that I have not spotted here.

Eamonn Murphy

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