Samhain Publishing, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-61922-881-8
Sci-fi Romance, 2015
In the distant future, mankind has found a way to create and travel through “sinkholes” in space – this shortens space travel so much to the point that people begin exploring various planets and star systems out there. Unfortunately, sometimes someone can enter a sinkhole and never comes out. While some people believe that these folks are in another dimension, still alive, even the fellow behind the technology that allowed sinkholes to happen believe that these folks are most likely dead.
The fellow, Trent Montoya, ended up being one of those people who entered and never came out of a sinkhole. His sister Alexia refuses to believe that he’s dead, and she’s the only one. The company that flourished from the technology Trent developed eventually squeezed her out of her 50% share in the company after having Trent legally declared dead. Alexia won’t give up, however, and she constantly tries to solicit donations, expertise, and more to help her find a way to locate and bring back Trent. Her resources have to run out, eventually.
When the story opens, Rick Gage is just one of the “wranglers” around the place, doing stuff on contract from the big boys to make a living, when he spots the people from the Destry branch of the company giving Alexia a hard time. He steps in, only to discover that Alexia isn’t in dire danger like he thought – TJ Seaton, the second-in-command of the same company that Trent used to be a part of, has a rather complicated thing going with Alexia and he won’t let her come to harm like this. Rick finds himself invited to dinner with TJ and Alexia for his intervention on Alexia’s behalf. Is Alexia planning to use Rick in her efforts to get her brother back? What is TJ’s role in all this? The drama has only just begun…
Space Wrangler is a long story, but it is as long as it is because the characters love to talk a lot. Unfortunately, this is another example of an author using her characters to explain things to one another in order to let readers in on something, and, while doing so, causes the pace of the story to get bogged down considerably. Even when things finally happen later in the story, nearly everything is presented through conversations between characters! Ugh, I want to see explosions, action, anything to switch things up from the monotony of constant babbling, but I guess this just won’t be happening anytime soon with this story.
Even then, the conversations tend to be mechanical rather than interesting. People launch into elaborate monologues that reveal every minute detail of one’s life to strangers shortly after the first meeting, for example, and such conversations never feel natural because come on, how many people do you know would open up this much so easily to strangers anyway? In this story, basically everyone and anyone, hence conversations here can appear too much like contrived exposition device. And worse, some of the conversations can veer towards vapid valley territory.
“There’s more,” TJ warned. “Can you take it?”
“Do I have a choice? I don’t want to make some thoughtless remark at dinner and hurt his feelings.”
“Okay.” He exhaled loudly. “So they spent a couple of years in Wyoming, then they moved to DC so the father could take a desk job—completely out of harm’s way—and Rick could go to some private high school. When Rick graduated and was accepted into West Point, the dad finally returned to the field. Just before Rick’s fourth year at the Point, the dad was lured into an ambush by Vigg Petrini, who had apparently been holding a grudge.”
“An ambush? Don’t tell me—”
“Yeah, Rick’s father was gunned down.”
Alexia shuddered. “It’s so unfair.”
Alexia will keep going about how everything is so unfair as TJ is continues to narrate Rick’s life story like a theatrical stage puppet. While the author loves to have her characters talk, she gives them a rather limited set of vocabulary, and in Alexia’s case, she can come off as insipid or insincere.
I also have not much grasp on the characters beyond the superficial, thanks to the author’s dependence on conversations as a narrative device. I don’t get enough glimpses into what is happening inside their heads, all I get is what they babble about. In Space Wrangler, the problem here is that the conversations by themselves are not nuanced or even interesting enough to provide insight. Too often they are dry and mechanical, revealing little of the characters’ personality. Let’s put it this way: for a story that relies heavily on people explaining and narrating the story, all these people talk and sound alike. That’s one big problem, right there, and it’s downhill from there.
To sum things up, Space Wrangler is an often dry and dreary read, thanks to the author’s choice of exposition technique. Things would probably be far more interesting if the author would give me front row seats more often to see things happening myself. At the very least, it’d probably be less easy to set down and put aside.