Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Friday, January 17, 2014
Title: Avalon
Author: Mindee Arnett
Genre: young adult, science fiction'
Series: Avalon #1
Pages: 432
Published: expected January 21 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3.5/5

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon was the fifth and last of my three day space/sci fi book splurge. For an opener of a new series, it stands as a decent introduction into this kind of story, for newcomers or for veterans. Mindee Arnett clearly has a lot of love for the genre she is exploring, and the Firefly inspirations and homages help to make Avalon full of twists, betrayals, dangerous schemes, and deadly enemies.

Christina from A Reader of Fictions summed up this book best: it is a mixture of awesome and not awesome things.

Here's my personal breakdown.

space/space travel
teenage thieves-for-hire in SPAAAAACE
Firefly-esque shenanigans
the metatech
Belgrave Quadrant anomalies
alien species!

Not Awesome:

Avalon falls apart when it comes to the crew. Since Firefly was such an inspiration, I'll use it as an example here. That tv show wasn't just fun for the hijinks and narrow escapes and Reavers and SPAAAAACE but because the characters were vibrant, real, alive. You cared about Mal, Inara, Wash, Zoey... But Arnett's ragtag group of Jeth and Co. are not of that brand. They are names on a page; they, both as individuals and as a group, lack a spark, or real personality. It's a damn shame because there's some serious potential but no one is really as defined or characterized as they should be. Jeth is really the only memorable out of the original lot (exception: Cora.)

Pacing is the other main issue that dogged me throughout the story. Avalon can be just so uneven. The book starts with a bang -- theft of a spaceship from a guarded port! - and then slows way down. There's personal backstory and group motivation to be explained in those sections, but it makes reading Avalon feel a bit like a chore at some points in the story. There are times when the action and adventure shine, and there are times it felt like filler, waiting for something important to happen. As a whole, Avalon was neither as bad as I feared nor as good as I hoped.

For all that this is billed as scifi, this has a rather light approach to science fiction. Tech and travel are explained in the barest and basest way, and I didn't mind. The way travel works in Arnett's version of the future is simple and thus the explanation fits for what has been created. It's more fiction in space than real science fiction, and the need to over-complicate it would've drowned the pacing even more.

This is the first in a series and as an opener, it works. I liked it enough to want to continue the read to see what Jeth does next, what happens with the ITA and the Aether Project. Though not without some issues, Arnett has grown from her first (non scifi) novel, and Avalon is a much stronger novel than her debut. There are some plotlines left lingeringly open, but Avalon could easily be read as a standalone. The characters could be stronger, but the ideas and the plot behind the scenes were topnotch. This is the solidest of solid 3.5/5 books. Good, not great, but definite potential to become so.

Seriously, though. WHAT IS ON THAT COVER?! I will BRIBE someone to tell me.

1 comment:

  1. I think I should probably watch Firefly before I read this. I know, I know. I suck. The lack of personality in the characters worries me though. Might have to pick this up once there are more installments and I can just binge read it. Great review, Jessie!


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