As announced on Sunday, At Boundary’s Edge has chosen our three semi-finalists for the SPSFC. Today we’ve got our second full review of the contest, which is of Brian G. Turner’s Destroyer. With an SPSFC rating of 7.17 out of 10, this was my personal favourite of the books I’ve read so far in the competition, and the second highest rated from the team as a whole. Now then, let’s get on with the review itself.
Spaceships. They’ve been a part of science fiction for so long it’s easy to take them for granted. A lot of the time they exist as little more than a way to carry the characters from plot point A to plot point B. And that’s if we’re lucky enough to spend any length of time on them. Sometimes they’re little more than a looming shape in the background. The general exception to this rule is the smaller craft used by intrepid hero types across the genre. Think Millennium Falcon or Serenity, and you get the idea. These craft tend to be on the smaller side though, and don’t fully do justice to how massive any truly viable interstellar craft would be.
Enter Destroyer. The ship from which Brian G Turner’s novel (the first in a series) takes its name is more than just a space car the characters hop into on their journey. It’s a fully fleshed location in its own right. Despite the name, it’s actually a vessel intended for benevolent purpose. A colony vessel, with a crew in stasis awaiting arrival at a new world. But when the crew wakes, the find that they have fallen well short of their target, and now the ship is all the world they’re likely to see for the rest of their lives. Lives that are looking worryingly short as the novel begins. What Turner does very well is convey a sense of scale. The Destroyer‘s interior is like a maze, and exploring its hallways makes for a thrilling read.
This is a book that straddles genres. Yes, it fits very neatly into the space opera category, but in theme it’s also got elements of survival horror. Which makes sense. Space is a very scary place, utterly hostile to human life, so a ship seemingly stranded in the void is going to cause a lot of tension. As the survivors emerge from stasis, there’s a strong vein of the disaster movie about things too, as a group of people with very little in common must work together to survive. Though naturally everyone has their own idea of who should be in charge. But as big as the Destroyer is, the endless hallways and lifeless rooms make for a tight and claustrophobic setting. And that’s without going into some of the spookier goings-on.
The other genre at work here is the puzzle box. When you wake on a spaceship with no idea of what is going on, you’d best go hunting for answers. And in true JJ Abrams fashion, every answer throws up more questions. Now, I have seen books (and entire series) undone by a poorly chosen plot twist This is not the case here. The mystery deepens and evolves in a natural way, and the big reveal at the novel’s end is both satisfying, and a perfect hook for future storytelling. of course, puzzle box stories are very hard to review without giving the game away, but I’m confident enough to say that everything here holds together well, and that if you’re the sort of reader who works things out as they go along, all the answers are there if you look deep enough. Or you can be surprised. Either way, I think you’ll be satisfied with the way things pan out.
This is a quick-paced, twisty adventure, and my only real complaint is the short page count. But when your biggest problem is that there isn’t enough pf something, that’s hardly a complaint at all.