There are a few genres that I look forward to reading, and space opera is one of them. Not so much the hard SF space epics, but the adventure stories of mercenary teams searching for their inner Robin Hoods, or outnumbered military units battling outrageous odds and coming through the gauntlet with just enough people left alive to keep the unit together.
Much like with westerns on television or in feature films, sometimes I can’t help myself.
Unbreakable sounded like it would be right in my wheelhouse, and to be honest, for the most part it was; it had all the right elements: a quirky female soldier thrown into a leadership role under fire because she’s the highest ranking member of the unit not killed in a surprise attack, needing to win over the locals and turn them into a fighting force that wouldn’t let the survivors of her unit down, and making the unexpected battle decisions that turn the tide once and for all.
Yes, it has that and more. The space battles and the ground encounters are nicely paced and well written. Some of the characters shine with unique voices, and the political intrigue blended through the decisions of characters on several fronts made for interesting story speculations.
But the main character, Promise Paen, has one “quirk” that annoyed me throughout the entire story: the ghost of her dead mother pops in and gives her advice, or says something to make some realizations or to ground herself when there’s a chance she might feel overwhelmed and make a misstep because of it.
Instead of being a successful plot device to provide needed backstory here and there, it was a jarring experience, and throwing me completely out of the story each time “Mom” popped up. Every time she appeared, instead of focusing on the “conversation” she and her daughter were having, I kept wondering “how in the world did Promise pass her psych eval and get into the Republican Marines in the first place?”
Some of the characters fall into your military SF tropes types, and some of the battles use well-worn cliched descriptions of gunfire between troops and missile barrages between spaceships, but those elements didn’t detract from the story; they mostly served to bring back a sense of comfort after some of the strangely out-of-place discussions with “Mom”.
I will chalk up a lot of this to being a debut novel, and the story itself is a relatively fast read. I wish a little more attention to a few details had been explored, because that might have stepped this story up a notch.
There is a Book 2 in the works, but other than the memory of “Mom”, the characters and situations from Unbreakable haven’t made a big enough impression to make me want to drop everything and rush to jump back in for more of the story.
But I have this soft spot for space opera…
The colonists of the planet Montana are accustomed to being ignored. Situated in the buffer zone between two rival human empires, their world is a backwater: remote, provincial, independently minded. Even as a provisional member of the Republic of Aligned Worlds, Montana merits little consideration–until it becomes the flashpoint in an impending interstellar war.
When pirate raids threaten to destabilize the region, the RAW deploys its mechanized armored infantry to deal with the situation. Leading the assault is Marine Corps Lieutenant and Montanan expatriate Promise Paen of Victor Company. Years earlier, Promise was driven to join the Marines after her father was killed by such a raid. Payback is sweet, but it comes at a tremendous and devastating cost. And Promise is in no way happy to be back on her birthworld, not even when she is hailed as a hero by the planet’s populace, including its colorful president. Making matters even worse: Promise is persistently haunted by the voice of her dead mother.
Meanwhile, the RAW’s most bitter rival, the Lusitanian Empire, has been watching events unfold in the Montana system with interest. Their forces have been awaiting the right moment to gain a beachhead in Republic territory, and with Promise’s Marines decimated, they believe the time to strike is now.
Unbreakable by W. C. Bauers
Series: Chronicles of Promise Paen (Book 1)
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (January 13, 2015)
"Unbreakable" by W. C. Bauers
Unbreakable sounded like it would be right in my wheelhouse, and to be honest, for the most part it was; it had all the right elements.
But the main character has one “quirk” that annoyed me throughout the entire story: the ghost of her dead mother pops in and gives her advice. That, I could have done without. Instead of providing needed backstory, it was jarring, and completely threw me out of the story each time “Mom” popped up.