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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Discovery: A Col Sec Novel: Volume 3 (Col Sec series)

My previous book-related musing, Pandora's Brain, concerned a rather fine piece of science fiction writing that deals with a variety of interesting and relevant philosophical themes surrounding the key questions of not only whether we can successfully create a genuine self-aware artificial intelligence, but whether or not we actually should continue ( and if indeed we could actually stop) trying to find that illusive breakthrough. A technological leap that would inevitably result in perhaps the greatest social revolution in human history. It's all good stuff (I mean the book, not necessarily the the blog article) which you can catch HEREif you have nothing better to do that is.

The particular book offering on this occasion is a very different and noticeably less complex beast, though not necessarily the worse for it.

A week or two ago I was contacted by Kris Barnes from Authoramp, a company that work with authors & publishers to help them promote their books. He went on to explain that he is working with Jan Domagala, a sci-fi writer, who has released a series of books called 'Col Sec'. and due to my being a highly regarded sci-fi reviewer he wanted to contact me (No, I'm not making that last bit up, he really did say that). Kris further mentioned that the third book in the series, 'Discovery' is out - and wondered if I'd like to read and review this for them?

Yes you've guessed it, my self-indulgent side (which quite frankly is probably the vast majority of me) was fixated on the 'highly regarded reviewer bit' and I'm fully aware that it may have been said as a way to hook and then reel me in and appeal to my already abundant ego. Well it worked.......again.

"Kurt Stryder, the hero of Ronin not sure which direction his life should go, takes a cruise on the Colonial Queen but even this leads him into further trouble. 

A rich passenger persuades the Captain to take a diversion to the Tartaran Battlefield, once the scene of one of the greatest battles between the Colonial Confederation and the Elysium Alliance. A wasteland of derelict, abandoned husks of once great starships, now home to a colony of outcasts and dregs from every society known simply as, The Outlaws. 

Kurt is thrown into a deadly race to save as many passengers as possible when the Outlaws attack and knowing he won’t save them all he calls for help.
The Wildfire Team, a new elite unit set up by Col Sec to handle the worst case scenario is dispatched to help Kurt but when they arrive all is not as it seemed. 

A secret is discovered on the planet below, one that both the Confederation and Alliance alike had thought buried forever, a secret that could ignite another war between the two Superpowers should it be revealed.
Kurt and the Wildfire Team must fight side by side against insurmountable odds to save the life of Prince Aswan and Natasha Garvey, his bodyguard from Col Sec Diplomatic Corp. 
While in orbit above the planet, the two Superpowers flex their military might in a game bluff and counter bluff. "



I will admit to not having read either of the first two in the Col Sec series, Ronin or Omega and did wonder whether this would impact on my appreciation and understanding of Discovery. I needn't have worried, for while there my be a number of unavoidable references to some of the preceding episodes it certainly doesn't detract from the overall experience.


As I mentioned earlier, Discovery is a very different type of beast from the previous book on the philosophical issues of the introduction of fully aware Artificial intelligence. I certainly don't mean that comment as any form of criticism or mocking of the subject matter in this story, because the book (and by definition, the author) are not concerned with any convoluted intellectual issues. There are few philosophical ponderings about the human condition in this book. Instead the intention is to provide us with a fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled futuristic space adventure - and in that is succeeds very nicely.

For some reason people often look down upon stories of this nature, a good old straightforward adventure store whose main intention is quite clearly to entertain it's readership. I'm the first to own up to be something of an obsessive of authors such as Isaac Asimov, Phillip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley and Ray Bradbury who set new standards of science fiction writing with their futuristic contemplations of contemporary social, technological and philosophical issues. However, there is still a place for more entertainment-focused styles such Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat series that imply that it's perfectly OK to say that good sci-fi doesn't always have to have high pretensions of premise. Now I'm not saying that the Col Sec series is approaching the quality of Harrison's eponymous work, but it's certainly an good substitute.

What we have here is a genuine roller coaster of a sci-fi ride as we follow the formidable Kurt Stryder while he faces another highly charged episode after highly charged episode. He is a likable, if rather familiar hero whose enhanced abilities and seeming indestructibility make him the perfect foil for all manner of bad guys (and gals) who want nothing more to blow his brains out. Though there are some weaknesses to Kurt's character (which I'll refer to shortly) the author Jan Domagala succeeds in making him a wonderfully amiable rogue who often has one or two nice quips to match his propensity for violent adventure.

I will readily admit to simply letting myself be happily carried along as we travelled through the author's nicely written and widely imaginative futuristic universe. There admittedly is little complexity to the plot and concepts within the book, but once again that's not meant in any patronising way. On the contrary, I mean it as a compliment because Discovery is a rollicking, and at times incredibly violent ride into space and onto other worlds. In other words, it's completely enjoyable. 

Though the plot is imaginative and the narrative carries us along often at a pulsating seaside ride speed, this inevitably leads to some negatives. Whilst the protagonist, Kurt, is suitably heroic and resourceful there does come across a feeling that his character is somewhat under-written, leaving him at times bordering on coming across as one-dimensional in his behaviour. I could be doing the author a disservice with not having read the first two in the series where I'm assuming more character background will have been laid down. However the feeling pervades throughout that as exciting the plot may be, Kurt and the other characters would he benefited from more texture and layer.

In addition at times a little (but by no means all) of the dialogue at times becomes somewhat laboured and cliched, the effect leading to a lack of credibility at some points in the interaction between one or two of the characters.

These though are but minor considerations because I found Discovery an immensely entertaining read which ensured that, given the chance, I would have no problem at all in reading the rest of the books in the series. So if you like a nicely put together mixture of space adventure and some in-your-face characters who couldn't give a monkeys uncle about the philosophical nature of life but who would rather blast their way out of a problem - then this may well be for you.



About the author........



Jan Domagala (1955-ongoing);

" I have never considered myself a writer, I would like to think of myself as an entertainer, a teller of stories. I would hope that the stories I write entertain you the reader so that when you finish the book two things happen, firstly that you feel you have had your money's worth and secondly it makes you want to know what happens next. If that happens then I can feel satisfied that I have done my job well.

I recently returned to live in Staffordshire, where I grew up, after a brief sojourn in the Derbyshire Dales. At present I am busy writing the next book in the series."


For more information about Jan Domagala and how to purchase copies of Discovery, and the rest of the Col Sec series, visit his Amazon page RIGHT HERE



Jan Domagala's Facebook page can be located HERE



You can view the Authoramp website, and the work they are doing for authors & publishers here at http://www.authoramp.com/#services


You can check out the Authoramp Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAMP?fref=ts
 

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