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REVIEW: The Skyborn by Paul Collins

REVIEW SUMMARY: A worthy sequel in a cool setting.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Skyborn outcast Welkin Quinn and his adopted Earthborn family must neutralize a genocidal threat from the Skyborn ship Colony.

PROS: Awesome setting and back story; lot’s of fast-paced action; unexpected plot twists.
CONS: Pacing issues; characters intuit too much.
BOTTOM LINE: A satisfying read that successfully maintains the good aspects of its predecessor.

The Skyborn by Paul Collins picks up shortly after the events of The Earthborn. It’s been two years since the Skyborn ship Colony crash-landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Welkin Quinn, an outcast Skyborn who has since been adopted by an Earthborn family, has been a great asset to the clan. Now a new threat emerges from Colony. When young pilot Ferrik Ramirez stumbles upon a secret plot by the Skyborn elders to eradicate those pesky Earthborn once and for all, he manages to connect with Welkin and his new Earthborn family. Together they go on a mission to discover the truth behind the genocidal attack plans, but what they find is an even greater threat to the species.

Just like its predecessor, The Skyborn is jam-packed with immersive action-sequences that skip across a wonderfully-detailed post-apocalyptic landscape that thankfully maintains the same Armageddon-like Lord of the Flies feeling. The compelling setting is conveyed through incidental comments and description, not long, meandering paragraphs describing ruins and rubble. There were lots of action scenes and they just got better and better as they moved from outside to inside decaying ship Colony. With the change in scenery, the reader gets to see a host of new fiends and enemies including mutated cat-sized rats, a band of religious zealots and an Earthborn cult led by the psychotic Tolk. There’s another threat that I won’t mention because, with 70 pages left to go in the novel, the new threat is revealed in a way-cool plot-twist that paves the road for another book.

Some of the same themes are addressed here that are addressed in the previous outing – specifically, the desire to see the unification of mankind in the hopes of promoting species survival. And again, the portrayal of young people in leadership positions is a good message. In short, much of what I liked about the The Earthborn was maintained in The Skyborn.

However, there were a few things that didn’t hold up. Some of the main characters in the book (Welkin, Sarah, Ferrik) seemed to intuit too much. I mean, sure, they’re street smart, but did every bit of intuition have to play out to be true? Also, the pacing was somewhat affected by the fact that some scenes happened offstage. One of them in particular (Welkin’s meeting with the religious Penitent sect) was over before you realized it and the events of said meeting were told in un-dramatic past tense. These scenes, if played out for the reader, might have added a lot to the book.

Once the recon party hit the ship, though, the pace picked up quite a bit. The last third of book, the narrative split from one to multiple threads. While this had the seeming effect of maximizing action, it felt like the events in one or another story line dragged on excessively long story-time-wise; that is, it didn’t take long to read, but the events should not have taken up that much story time. The Colony scenes were cool because you get to see how the ship’s society degraded into differing factions. One of these factions, the Doves, are sympathetic to Welkin’s cause and are a natural fit for backup help.

The ending the reader is expecting unexpectedly happens 70 pages or so before the end of the book. Not to worry, though; like I said, a new but related threat is discovered in a pleasant surprise plot twist that, while not immediately diffused, is adequately handled. And it provides a nice set up for any future stories in this universe.

In the end, you are left with a satisfying read that successfully maintains the good aspects of its predecessor.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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