Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Book Review: Avalon by 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.

When I heard this book being compared to Firefly it jumped straight to the top of my to read list.  Firefly is one of my favourite shows ever and so anything remotely resembling it instantly becomes interesting to me.  So, is Avalon like Firefly? Yes and in quite a few ways.  There is the government that really resembles The Alliance from Firefly.  They have special agents called ‘Echo’s’ who technically do not exist which is exactly like ‘The Operative’ from Serenity (the movie continuation of Firefly.)  There are no alien life forms and planets ruled by villains. Then there are the characters who I often thought resembled those in Firefly.

You have the Captain, Jeth who is often stuck between what he wants to do and what is right for his crew.  He is a fairly conflicted character who mirror’s Mal in many ways.  Then there is Sierra who despite being female is clearly like Simon Tam.  She is smart, educated and her only purpose is to protect a child, Cora, from the government.  Cora who is unusually gifted is obviously River Tam.  Then there is Shady who is a good fighter but lacks smarts.  He is good at firing guns but is not always trust worthy, which is exactly like Jayne Cobb.  You have the geeky mechanic Flynn who could easily be Wash, the loyal Celeste who would make an awesome Zoe and the flirty yet smart Lizzie who resembles Kaylee.

I liked Avalon, I found it interesting but despite the similarities it was no Firefly. Why? Because it wasn’t funny enough, it wasn’t smart enough and I didn’t love the characters enough.  Firefly was special because it went outside of the box and because every character was full of personality and impossible to dislike.  Avalon doesn’t quite achieve that.

Generally speaking I really enjoyed the storyline of Avalon.  It starts with a bang and keeps up a good pace throughout.  I did think it was maybe a little too long but I was never once bored and didn’t lose interest at all.  There were some genuinely freaky moments when it bordered on sci-fi horror which I really loved.  Mindee Arnett is really good at writing spine tingling moments that suck the reader in.  The writing was strong from beginning to end and I loved the world building and science fiction jargon.  It is worth noting that those who are not big Sci-fi fans may struggle with some of the terminology as it does get a little geeky and techy at times.

What really let Avalon down is characters.  It is a real shame because this had so much potential but the characters were weak.  To be honest I really didn’t like Jeth.  I found him self-centred and obnoxious.  He irritated me from beginning to end, he just thought he was best and it was really annoying.  He managed to make everything about him, and takes risks that endanger not only himself but his crew.  He knows that the female crew members (including his sister) will be forced into prostitution if he messes up but he keeps trying to get his ship back without thinking of those nasty consequences.  Even more annoying is that instead of talking to the crew about what their fates hold if he goes against the boss he keeps it all a secret from them so they don’t even know the risk.  I kept waiting for someone to call him out on his bull but it never happened.  Then there was the romance and how he just assumes that Sierra is interested in him (an assumption that bites him in the ass which I found very funny.)

The rest of the characters had a lot of potential but were never given the space to grow.  Everything was Jeth and no-one else really got a look in.  It was a real shame as some of the other characters I could have easily invested in.

There was a lot to like about Avalon, it was an engaging and exciting read but it was let down by its characters.  It was good but it could have been really great.

3 stars

 A free copy was provided for review.  Images courtesy of Goodreads.

Review by Kate Phillips

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