A Red Peace by Spencer Ellsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This first book in the Starfire Trilogy is either a short novel or a really long novella. It feels like a throwback to the pulp age: we have a galaxy-spanning war, lots of oft-squicky biotech, a horror aside that absolutely gave me the shivers (seriously, that brief sojourn into the Dark Zone, with its planet-sized telepathic spiders consuming all life, is enough to give anyone nightmares), soulswords that vacuum up their victims' memories, one vat-grown supersoldier with PTSD, and a half-human half-alien pilot who gets thrown willy-nilly into the middle of a mystery that spans thousands of years and extends into another galaxy. This is a fast-paced adventure with some interesting things to say about addiction and the cost of war.
Since this book is only fifty-some-thousands words, there is not a great deal of room for character development. The author actually does a fairly good job within his length constraints, on the supersoldier Araskar in particular. The next book, Shadow Sun Seven, is easily twice the length of this one, and I hope Ellsworth will be able to take a deeper dive into his characters. But this is still a promising start.
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