Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
The 'Star Realms' Universe
In this universe, Earth is governed by corporations; this isn’t a new concept in science fiction. This Earth ends up being the major rival to the “Star Empire”. The history of the Star Empire in Star Realms is realistic. Someone with the largest fleet and willing to use it to protect worlds against an alien invasion finds planets not protected by anyone else swearing allegiance. The “Machine Cult” was founded by two colonies that were initially passed over by the alien attacks; they focused on building automated ships for defense and happened to have the resources to do so.
The only issue I have is that the simplistic explanation for their enthusiasm and dedication is “religion”. Then again, “Machine Cult” is a simple explanation of the group, and this book is based on a card game that only needs bare characterization of the main rivals in a game.
In the Star Realms Universe, the Machine Cult and Star Empire are each trying to expand their “Star Realms” against both the alien Blobs and Trade Federation of Earth. There are new groups trying to create their own independent world and “realm”. And that is the objective of the Star Realms game.
What Del Arroz Got Right
The book is a quick science fiction read, and it is an in depth explanation of the Star Realms universe.
The plot itself is logical and reasonable, with almost no deus ex machina. A few twists and turns and acceptable pacing.
I would rate the book PG based on minor violence, one minimally described character death, and truly a "dash of romance," as mentioned on the cover.
What the Author Got Wrong
The book could have been 50 pages shorter by cutting unnecessary and trope attempts to add tension and characterization to very clichéd characters.
While novelizations of TV shows, movies and games can make writing easier for the author by completing world-building and basic character outlines, allowing them to focus on adding depth to characters, politics and background story lines, this book stays straight and narrow within the lines. The little depth added to the truly stock characters is straight out of TVTropes.
The Framework Doesn't Make Up for the Writing
Books based off of video games have a framework off of which to work, because the universe, its factions and main characters already exist This can simplify work for the writer because the framework already exists, so the world-building is done and doesn’t need to be repeated for most readers. Conversely, a book based off a video game or novelization of a movie may be limited by the heavy tropes built into it. Mr. Arroz’s writing suffers from the stock tropes the game itself uses. The Trade Federation is the standard evil corporations, though some within it are not all bad. The empire that broke away from the Earth centered Trade Federation is exploitative but not as bad as Earth, but they don’t pay their military enough and are still far from perfect. The third major human empire worships machines and technology, so they are technologically advanced but have few people; this trope is so pervasive it is even found in Dune with Ix.
There is a lot to work with here, and I'm disappointed that Mr. Arroz couldn't create a more compelling story given what he had. His later novel "Gravity of the Game" is much better.
Overall, It Was Disappointing
Given what is essentially novelization of a game, it is OK compared to similar works. As a science fiction novel, it is mid-grade, below the quality of writing I’d expect for an author of Jon Del Arroz’s caliber. Three stars.
© 2017 Tamara Wilhite
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on September 28, 2017:
This is apparently one of Mr. Arroz's earlier works, so I was right that he's gotten better over time.
lisasweetty on September 26, 2017:
I think rescue run looks interesting I would love to play it.