Susan Grant, $5.99, ISBN 978-1940200507
Sci-fi Romance, 2016
Star Hero is the expanded version of Stray, a short story previously published in the 2016 anthology Pets in Space 1. I have no idea how much has been expanded, since the indie titles on Amazon and myself are never to be, but this isn’t a pretty short novella in the first place. The $5.99 cover price I listed is for the trade paperback – I’m pretty sure the digital edition should be priced much lower.
Anyway, this one is set in the same world as The Champion of Barésh, but it can stand alone just fine. It is about Lukas Frank, a Space Marine Lieutenant who is still haunted constantly of a tragedy that claimed many lives – a tragedy that he blames himself for. His best friend is the planetary equivalent of our dog, whom he’s named Bang-Bang. I know, I cringe too every time I see that name. He will soon meet Captain Carlynn Riga. The two of them fall into bed in what is supposed to be a good time romp with no strings attached, but everything falls into place so well that they are soon in a relationship. But she wants him to see a shrink, and he doesn’t understand why she can’t leave things be, so the happy ending may not be so easily attained just yet.
This one has every ingredient to be a solid winner: a very likable yet damaged hero, a smart and capable heroine, a cute dog that doesn’t come off as too much of a manipulative plot device, lots of emotions and angst, and of course some action. I don’t really have an issue with the story, other than being pretty sure that it could have been a far more satisfying read if the author had expanded it even further into a full length novel.
What I am distracted by is the constant, almost gimmicky switches of points of view. The author has chapters being narrated by Lukas, Carlynn, and Bang-Bang (I cringe a bit at that one, but it’s not too bad). Even then, these chapters can switch from first person to third person without any rhyme or reason. Which is to say, the previous chapter from Lukas’s point of view was in first person narration, but the next chapter switches to third person. And the following chapter can be in first or third person, based on what I suppose is the author’s whim. The whole thing is very distracting to me, maybe because I’m anal that way, and after a while I feel like pulling my hair out. I personally feel that there is no difference in the emotional impact delivered by first or third person narration – both work just fine on me. I just don’t like how all over the place the whole story feels due to all these back and forth from inside and outside of the characters’ heads.
If you think you can overlook the narrative style, you may like this one more. I personally feel that there is a poignant, hard-hitting tale in Star Hero, mind you. I just wish the story had been done in a more conventional narrative style. Oh, and I don’t mind if it was longer too.