My earliest memories of science fiction all revolve around Wookies and green-skinned aliens, and having to learn different languages or else read sub-titles. As a child, I enjoyed the space-battles and futuristic technology, but for some reason, never got into reading this genre. For me, it was always more visual, perhaps because a lot of those stories were created to showcase new techniques in special effects.
So, how does a writer carry a story full of action without the benefit of CGI and a John Williams score?
Well, in the case of Zero by J.S. Collyer, the answer begins with the characters she creates. This begins as the story of Captain Hugo, a disgraced starship captain whose career is seemingly over, following questionable actions he made, following his heart instead of blindly following orders.
This immediately endears him to the reader — who doesn’t love someone who breaks the rules in order to do what they believe to be right? But Hugo isn’t a lawless rebel — quite the contrary, actually. He’s a Service man through and through, and I found him equally infuriating and loveable, which made for a great dynamic.
The story’s other main character, Zeke Webb, the commander of the starship Zero, is a survivor, and something of a pirate. He’s learned to adapt his ideals and morality in order to make a living and to protect his crew. He and Hugo make an unlikely pair at first, but the friendship that develops between them becomes one of this novel’s great strengths.
The crew of the Zero work under the guise that they are space pirates, but are, in fact, working for the Service to carry out under-the-radar missions too risky for above-board operations. As the story develops, we learn about political instabilities on the Lunar Colonies, and factions that would like to exploit that and declare independence from the Service. Zero is sent on missions to thwart these factions, and as each mission seems to be progressively difficult and dangerous, they begin to make some disturbing discoveries.
The story is full of political intrigue and subterfuge, and about half-way through, takes a twist that gives the story an entirely new dynamic and causes it to pick up furious speed. Once all the pieces of the story came together, I was unable to put this novel down, reading the last 100 pages in one go — I had to know how it was going to turn out, and with only 15 pages left, still wasn’t entirely convinced I knew how it was going to end.
The action sequences are very well written, and don’t read like blocking or choreographing, as is sometimes the case with some writers. This is science fiction, but isn’t bogged down with pseudo-scientific jargon or strange, inaccessible concepts that only appeal to sci-fi enthusiasts. This is simply a good story — part mystery, part adventure, filled with great characters and enough twists to keep it unpredictable and interesting.
I highly recommend this book — the writing is solid, the storytelling is easy to follow, and you’ll be hungry to read more about the characters.
You can PRE-ORDER this book today in a variety of formats, including signed and personalized copies from the author herself.
About the Author:
J. S. Collyer was born in Birkenhead on the Wirral in England before moving around a lot with her family at a young age. Settling finally in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, she was already an avid storyteller having started to write stories from as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She began reading obsessively when she discovered Star Wars and science fiction in secondary school and went on to study literature and creative writing up to Master of Arts’ level at the Lancaster University. After graduating with her MA in 2008 she has stayed in Lancaster with her partner and kept her hand in with short stories and has started a few novels, before finally getting the idea for Zero after deciding to put a fantasy project on hold.
She has always had a taste for narratives that are larger than life and science fiction delivers what she needs. But, though it’s true she likes spaceships, lasers and moon rocks, she also likes humanity, sincerity and relating to her characters. They may live on the moon, but they’re real and she is committed to creating human narratives albeit usually with a super-human backdrop.
Discover more of her fiction as well as details of previously published work on her blog http://jcollyer.wordpress.com.