Reviews

A PALE LIGHT IN THE BLACK (NeoG #1), by K.B. Wagers (DNF @ 46%)

My first DNF of the year: statistically, it was bound to happen sooner or later, but still the disappointment stings…  The blurb for this book promised a space opera focused on an organization, the NeoG, labeled as the space equivalent of the Coast Guard, and on the crew of one particular ship, Zuma’s Ghost, also adding that “A routine mission to retrieve a missing ship has suddenly turned dangerous, and now their lives are on the line. Someone is targeting members of Zuma’s Ghost, a mysterious opponent willing to kill to safeguard a secret that could shake society to its core . . . a secret that could lead to their deaths and kill thousands more […]”. 

Quite intriguing, indeed, and the start of the novel – despite some slight info-dump concerning the characters – introduced some captivating themes, like the promotion and subsequent transfer of a beloved second in command coinciding with the arrival of a new officer, whose past history and present uncertainties would add some spice to the interpersonal mechanics aboard the ship.  Given these premises I expected a lively, adventurous story peppered with some interesting character evolution, but unfortunately things did not work that way at all.

From the very start the story seems focused solely on the annual Boarding Games that pit the various branches of Earth’s military against each other, with much space given to Zuma’s Ghost’s commander and crew lamenting their defeat in the previous edition of the Games, and their preparations for the upcoming session: up to the point where I stopped reading there were only a couple of instances in which the crew faced emergencies related to their actual job, and they were solved quickly, almost off-handedly, immediately going back to talk of the impending Games. From a quick online search I discovered that the more adventurous section of the story does come into play once the “Space Olympics” are over, but I could not find the strength to go through chapter after chapter of fights and simulated battles to reach what might have been the “meat” of the story.

To be entirely truthful, I have to admit I don’t care for team sports of any kind, so that might very well have colored my reaction to this story, but still I don’t understand the importance of the competition in the economy of the novel (at least as it’s presented in the blurb): a passing reference seems to indicate that the winning faction would get the greater portion of the government’s funds destined to military operations, and since NeoG did not gather any wins they are forced to go into space with sub-standard and/or old equipment. If that’s how things are in this future vision of humanity, it’s a ludicrous way indeed to manage a space-faring civilization…

Which brings me to the background, or rather scarcity of it: there are references to a Collapse that threatened to end civilization, but since it’s now four centuries in the past no more details are given about what it entailed, or how Earth overcame it; technology seems advanced enough – ships achieving light speed, instant communications spanning great distances with no time-lag, rejuvenating treatments keeping people young well beyond human standards, and so on – but it looks like an afterthought rather than an organic part of the whole. Then you are met with weird details like swords as onboard armament because “no one yet had the lock on a reliable handheld laser weapon”. Granted, once my inner Nasty Nitpicker is awakened, it tends to sink its teeth onto these trivial details and to never let go, but to me this speaks of poor planning, or editing, or both.

When all is said and done, A Pale Light in the Black looks like the kind of book I might have read – and probably enjoyed – a few decades ago, when I began reading SF: now that I have a good number of books under my proverbial belt, and that I have hopefully honed my tastes, books like this one feel totally unsatisfying.  This is not the droid… pardon me … the novel I was looking for.

Moving on….

My Rating:

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20 thoughts on “A PALE LIGHT IN THE BLACK (NeoG #1), by K.B. Wagers (DNF @ 46%)

  1. I’m actually relieved to hear you DNF”d this, as I’ve read one book by the author and wasn’t that crazy about it. (Behind the Throne) To me it seemed the plot never went anywhere, with characters talking non stop about unimportant things, and constantly walking from room to room. Sounds like this has a similar vibe! May your next book be better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *OUCH* Then this author seems to be a repeat offender! 😀
      After a while all that aimless meandering became too much, and seeing that it does not seem limited to this particular book, I guess I will head for other shores…

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  2. It’s never fun to have to DNF a book. I never know when to quit and find it hard to decide when, but there is always a sense of relief after making that decision. I will avoid this novel because team sports are not interesting to me either. I don’t understand why they would fill the pages in a book.

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    1. The space Olympics would have been interesting if they had been confined to the background, but there was too much of them and too little of the story I was interested in: I guess that it was the Law of Diminishing Returns that told me when to quit… 😉

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  3. Ahh, that’s a shame but these things happen. I think you’ve hit on something also with your phrase ‘once my inner Nasty Nitpicker is awakened/ because I do tend to find that when I’m not enjoying a book I latch onto every little thing, this is why I give up the ghost, otherwise I just end up totally livid.
    Lynn 😀

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  4. Oh no! I loved this one, but I love the games mechanic as a plot trope so the space Olympics didn’t bother me at all. That said, I also loved the swords on spaceships – because I’m always bothered when books DO feature laser/projectile weapons that aboard ships 😂 Not worried about putting a hole in your ship? Got a suit on? Huh. Love your confidence in your hull, hope that works out for you. But The Hunt For Red October and its climactic STOP SHOOTING AT THE NUCLEAR REACTOR got to me young 😀 Anyway, sorry to hear this didn’t work for you – on to the next space opera, may it hold more reward!

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    1. Granted that once one is on a ship, hull integrity must be paramount, but there could be energy weapons that don’t create holes in the walls, or that paralyze the opponent without damaging the structures, and so on – and maybe I’ve been spoiled by Star Trek’s phasers – but going from there to swords was a bit too much for me… And Ms. Nitpicker! 😀 😀

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  5. I always hate reading about, and experiencing, the need to just move on, leaving a book unfinished. But I’m glad to hear you were able to do it. I’m still working on that skill. I’ve done it occassionally, but I just finished slogging through a literary classic (Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett) that I wish I would have just put aside. I could be halfway through a more enjoyable book by now. Perhaps seeing you successfully DNF will help give me the strength to do better next time. 🙂

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    1. When considering how many great books are out there, and how little time I have to read them – if not them *all*, at least a considerable number of them – it becomes easy to leave an unsatisfactory story by the wayside. I hope this helps in bolstering your resolve! 😉

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  6. Ha damn I hate it when that happens! On another side, as I am quite a newbie in scifi maybe that one could work for me…LOL

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    1. Much depends of your patience – mine is in very short supply, unfortunately… 😉
      Jokes aside, if you can manage to move forward through the long descriptions of the Games, you might enjoy the story, which sounded promising…

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  7. Well, I guess I’m scratching this off my list. I don’t mind the sports aspect of it even though I have little interest in the topic either, but the lack of background detail and the infodumping would likely kill it for me.

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  8. As I was saying in my comment to Tammy I loved another book by this author (two really, because it is a trilogy and I have read the first two) so it is still possible that, sooner or later (especially after finishing the other trilogy) I would read this one, but I have to confess that it does not sound so appealing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s of course a matter of personal taste and – for me – of some “pet peeves” I’m unable to keep out of the equation. If you enjoyed the author’s style in those two books you read, there is a good possibility that you might like this one as well and don’t be bothered by the elements that annoyed me… 🙂

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