Review: Meridian, Worlds Apart Book 1, James Wittenbach

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Set in the far future, 10k years after the fall of the Galactic Commonwealth, the planets Sapphire and Republic build a fleet of exploration vessels to re-establish contact with the lost human colonies.

PROS: Interesting story, great job of world building, old school action/adventure SF, lots of humor, a quick read.

CONS: Flat characters, uneven spacing of humor and seriousness, needs more editing.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for something new that won’t take a lot of time investment, you should pick up a copy of Meridian.


MY REVIEW: Meridian: Worlds Apart Book 1 is first-time author (I believe) James Wittenbach’s attempt at self-publishing a SF book. He is selling copies on his website, with proceeds from the sale of this first book to fund the rest, 10 in all. And from the first story, I think Wittenbach has created an interesting world that demands more exploration.

The Pathfinder class starship, Pegasus, and her sister ships have been built, with the help of alien technology, with the sole purpose of re-establishing contact with the lost colonies of humanity. Contact with them had been declining for centuries after the fall of the Great Galactic Empire, eventually ceasing to exist at all. The title of the book, Meridian, refers to the first planet the crew of the Pegasus visits. The fate of the colonists there is eventually discovered, after much mayhem and confusion.

For a first novel, this one is pretty good. The universal backdrop is definitely an interesting one and should provide a lot of fodder for future interesting stories. In fact, this hearkens back to Star Trek, with its emphasis on exploration and contact of other cultures, and that’s a good thing. The story in Meridian is interesting, with a lot of action and mysteries, on both the planet and Pegasus, to chew through. After a bit of a slow start, as the main characters journey to the ship, the story moves along at a brisk clip right to the ending. And at under 300 pages, the book is over in short order. This isn’t a bad thing. At such a length, the story doesn’t mess around with long descriptions or a bunch of flashbacks for the characters. Everything is geared toward telling the story. Wittenbach also mixes in a lot of sarcasm, humor and many SF elements into the story.

However, there are a few negative points. At such a short length, the characters get the short end as they aren’t really fleshed out and are, instead, two dimensional stereotypes of their respective planets. The Republikers are humorless and hierarchical while the Sapphireans are anarchic and disdainful of authority (their world leader is called ‘The Leader Guy’). The characters from each world pretty much follow those characteristics throughout. I also found the mix of action vs. humor to be uneven. There were times where the situation was very serious and I felt that the humor was out of place. That’s probably just me, but I felt even the Sapphireans would be more serious about what was going on. But the biggest issue I had with the book was the editing. It’s a tough job to write a novel, and even tougher to edit it. I found many instances in Meridian where more/better editing is needed. From the same concept being repeated within two sentences, to misspellings, usage of homonyms and missing punctuation, editing errors are littered throughout the story and, for me, tended to jerk me out of the story. Now, lest you think I’m trying to rain on his parade, I think tighter editing would server the flow of the story well and make it that much more enjoyable. And I think that further stories in this series will flesh out the characters more. In my mind, this book feels like a TV show pilot, where we are introduced to the characters and universe, and thrown right into the story.

From what I’ve read, I’d like to know more about the universe Wittenbach has created, and I’m hopeful more books will be forthcoming from him. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a funny, adventurous SF read or is looking for a break for the massive, hard SF space operas that are so prevalent today.