The time is finally upon us. The SPSFC has reached the finals, and we have a finalist review here for you today. This one is of Benjamin J. Roberts’ A Star Named Vega. This book has an SPSFC rating of 7.50 out of 10.
Prior to the SPSFC, I had very limited experience with self-published science fiction. My main exposure to it was from Amazon, where the lists of recommended purchases being thrust upon me from all directions consisted in no small part of independently published books. That’s still the case, by the way, because Amazon doesn’t know when to quit. If you take a look at these books, one thing stands out. There are essentially two genres being represented in these recommendations. One is military SF, and the other is space opera. Now, these are both genres I enjoy very much, so when it came to the SPSFC, I was not only expecting, but looking forward to ending inundated with these books. That didn’t happen. In our initial allocation, we had just the one military SF tale, and it didn’t progress very far. A few space operas made themselves known, but none made it beyond the semi-finals. Of course, At Boundary’s Edge is but one team of many, and it seems other had more space opera in their ranks. Thus, A Star Named Vega enters the SPSFC finals.
A Star Named Vega sits somewhere on the spectrum between Daros and The Expanse. It’s warm and cosy, but not an outright comedy. As space operas go, it’s rather more gentle than the harder-edged material I’m used to reading. Nevertheless, at this sae in the competition, it’s my favourite book of the SPSFC so far. Why? Because it’s space opera that isn’t afraid to take on classic staples of the genre without the need for subversion. It’s bold and colourful fun with real heart to it.
A lot of readers will be drawn to a book’s characters, so here I’ll say that the protagonists of this book are on the younger side. That explains some of the book’s gentleness, I suspect. It’s got softened edges so that children don’t get paper cuts. Honestly, if the main protagonists had been our only perspective, this book would have received a lower rating. The writing is fine, I just prefer more experienced characters. And that is where Rel comes in. Rel is a delight, whether he’s helping out those in danger, or being tortured for his sins. If ever a character deserved more page-time, it’s Rel.
In a way, A Star Named Vega could serve well as a younger or less-experienced reader’s introduction to space opera, though there are a fair few science fiction tropes and terms being thrown around with the expectation that the reader have a simple grasp of them. The history of terraforming is quickly explained in one of the best infodrops I’ve seen in the competition, spelled out alongside the future history of mankind without breaking the flow of the prose. And when we get to those individuals who aren’t human, things only get more interesting.
A Star Named Vega is exactly what I hoped to find in the SPSFC, and I encourage all space opera enthusiasts to give it a look.