Breaking away from Earthsea and shooting into space, I gave Into the Black (Odyssey #1) by Evan Currie a shot. This is not the first time I have not finished a book, but it is the first time I have not finished a book that I set out to read on my own time.
This isn’t to say that I think it was the worst book I ever read. Far from it. I’ve forced myself to slog through books I’ve disliked far more *side eyes her copy of Dune* but after reading the advice of another author (his name completely escapes me so I regret that I cannot direct you to his post on reading), I’ve decided that if a book just isn’t holding my attention after 1/3 of the way through, I’m going to put it down and move on. Such was the case with this book.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of books that jump between character perspectives within the same chapter, and especially without any sort of break in the narrative to signal that we may be entering someone else’s head. I’ve just never seen it done well enough to develop a tolerance for it, and that will always detract from my enjoyment of a book. Into the Black suffers from this, with the narrative shifting between a number of characters faster than the plot moved forward. Sometimes, it cut to characters who have not had any bearing on the plot at all, and really did not need to take up any space within the story. On the flip side, just as I finished reading and decided to put the book down, a character who had no prior development sacrificed herself to save the rest of the crew. This rang hollow as she only appeared for about 4 pages before she died, and I doubt she’ll be mentioned again. It was a noble death, but it had zero emotional impact because she was given no room anywhere else in the book.
On top of that, I found that the narration kept breaking away from the action to explain a scifi concept. Some readers may be able to appreciate this, but I found it disruptive and often too dry to appreciate. Especially when one of these explanations was shoehorned into the dialogue. Character development took a backseat to the concepts and the “science” behind them. If concepts and the theoretical science behind them are your main draws to scifi, you may greatly enjoy this book. I didn’t, though.
There were good elements to the book, however. There is a really nice balance of male and female characters, with women holding positions of authority onboard the Odyssey and serving alongside their male counterparts. That’s always a joy to see, and Currie includes them without any of the casual sexism that sometimes plagues the genre. The discovery the crew of the Odyssey makes on their maiden voyage is intriguing, and promises a few twists and turns throughout the rest of the series. And yes, I’m keeping that vague to avoid spoilers for those who want to check the book out for themselves. Additionally, while dry at times, the writing is clear, and doesn’t get bogged down in convoluted language for the sake of throwing technical jargon into the book. The narration will wander off to discuss a concept, but it will do so in a comprehensive manner, and again, if you like scifi that is heavy on concepts and ideas and don’t mind shaving off some character development and pacing in exchange for that, you may enjoy this book far more than I did.