Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Lucifer’s Star #1
Publisher: Mystique Press (April 27, 2017)
Length: 300 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
Lucifer’s Star is damn fine space opera! That was my initial reaction after closing the book, and now, several weeks later, I still feel the same way: C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus having crafted a rousing, pulse-pounding adventure story that fans of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or other sci-fi series should not miss out on.
The epic last battle between the Crius Archduchy and the Interstellar Commonwealth is taking place! Battleships and starfighters dancing among the heavens and between the fiery energy bolts of destruction. The fate of one section of the galaxy about to be decided once and for all. A young man struggling against the inevitable, desperately trying to find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and save not only his society but, more importantly, his family.
Too quickly, it is revealed that the battle is merely the dreams of one Cassius, a loner aboard the star frigate Melampus. His mind still plagued by nightmares of the war he somehow survived years before. His only desire to slip away from that past, forget what he has lost, and fade into obscurity among the other rift raft aboard Captain Ida Claire’s starship.
But anonymity isn’t to be, as more of Cassius’ past is revealed. His true identity thrusting him into the spotlight and returning him to a role he wished to leave behind. The future shifting before his eyes as the people he has lived among are shown to have their own secrets and motives. Each event pushing Cassius deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole he wanted so desperately to escape; people from his past reappearing and new threats looming over everything!
Many science fiction adventures attempt to capture the glory of great space opera: the masterful mixing of adventure and comedy, deceit and devotion, battle and exploration, hope and failure. All of these elements gently folded into a galaxy of familiarity and wonder, where galaxy building, violence, and good versus evil is the overall theme. Yet few success in capturing the wonder of great space opera. Phipps and Suttkus do, however, for several reasons.
First, they have a good cast of characters. And it all starts with our jaded yet somewhat noble hero Cassius, whose past might appear to be glorious but is soon revealed to have more than its share of secrets, sorrows, and missteps. His present motives ambiguous at best, filled with selfish desires and serious flaws. In other words, this guy is the perfect space opera hero for the early 21st Century (which doesn’t seem to believe in heroes anymore.) And surrounding him are a host of interesting people — from the calculating Captain Claire to the femme fatale Clarice to the scarred yet hopeful Isla. Each and every player adding yet another element of drama to a story which is filled with intrigue, double-crosses, and grand conspiracies.
Take special note of that last sentence, because it is my way of telling you that Lucifer’s Star isn’t a straight forward good versus bad space opera. Nope, the plot here is more complex than that. There are numerous twists and turns. Good guys revealed as bad guys (or merely at odds with our hero in the current situation.) More than a few people are backstabbed. Honorable or patriot motives evaporate once the focus settles upon them. And throughout it all, it really is difficult to tell who exactly is right, who is wrong, and who you the reader should be pulling for, because everyone has a decent argument that they alone are right.
As for the galaxy building here, it is deftly done by the authors. Phipps and Suttkus slowly but steadily painting the picture of a huge galaxy not long ago torn by war, filled with secrets, inhabited by mysterious beings, and controlled by even more mythical entities. The fragile equilibrium of everything ready to be blown asunder by a growing rebellion and its backers. Terrorists seen as heroes by some. Peacemakers viewed as fascists. War and death a never ending affair — as it is always going on somewhere. Danger, death, and adventure lurking around every corner.
As for any criticism I have of the book, the only one worth mentioning is the pacing and length of the opening chapters. For me, the initial setup here (while well done and completely understandable from a plot point of view) felt slow and too long. Other than the battle scene, it was more a constant buildup of reveals and back story which wasn’t terribly exciting. Certainly, the wealth of information introduced here sped the rest of the tale along, but I wish the first several chapters would have been a bit more exciting or a little shorter.
Lucifer’s Star is space opera for the 21st Century. Gone are the days of good guys in white fighting bad guys in black. Life is more complex than that, and so to are its stories. With a pulse-pounding, action-packed story populated by jaded, scarred characters and played out in a well imagined galaxy filled with intrigue, mystery, conflict, and more than a few laughs, Lucifer’s Star might not leave you with a smile on your face, but it will definitely leave you wanting to know more about Cassius and where his story will take him.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.