Author: Christopher Barrieau Release Date: 21st July 2014 Series: Wraithlight Genre: Science-Fiction. Edition: mobi Pages: 792 (kindle) Publisher: Source: Author
The Bathel: A race of psychopaths and murderers, consuming worlds and cultures with terrible sadistic joy. They have conquered every race they have found.
Now they have found mankind.
Scott Shaw, soldier, widower, and father, is the best warrior humanity has. He is trained in the alien combat of humanity’s new universe. But compared to the Bathel, he is a mere novice.
The Bathel demand a ritual combat: should Scott win, the Bathel will leave the small colony of mankind alone. Should he lose, everything and everyone he knows will suffer beyond the imaginations of humanity.
But no one has ever won, and Scott knows he heads to certain death on a foreign world.
Yet the natives speak of Wrathlight, the ultimate power, the power of judgement, wielded by powerful spirits with sky-blue eyes. An old myth, but can a mere man perhaps embody such a thing? Or perhaps he can only fight, and die.
Wrathlight is a 15,000 word short story and the first of a series.
Plot | Story
The story starts off with our main character saying good bye to his son, before heading off to represent his colony planet in a fight to the death against a ruthless race of aliens with a fondness for rape. On the way, we’re filled in some back story. Physical rules are different in this universe, allowing people to tap into the “Martial”, a Star Wars Force like equivalent. Having trained in the Martial all his life, the alien champion is naturally much better at this, so the Evil Alien Governor decides to have the main character trained up a bit by a defeated former champion, who of course is a beautiful female alien. So far, so typical, the story continues on with main character and trainer attempting to find ways out of their predicaments. There’s one massive twist at the end (lightly foreshadowed), but the plot keeps ticking along at a steady pace throughout, as the main characters try to think their way out of the situation, rather than win by brute force. It keeps the attention throughout, as you try to figure out how the main character will escape the situation he is in – but falls flat when he actually does so.
As a short story, there isn’t too much room for character building. There’s the heroic main character, and his son, a background setting science friend, the alien love interest and the evil alien Governor and Champion. There isn’t much to the science friend, kid or champion, there to set the stage, provide motivation for the main character and be threatening respectively, and the love interest isn’t much better either. The main character is your standard heroic character, not particularly standing out. With the limited space in a short story, this is fine, there’s only so much room to go round. Luckily, the Governor though as main antagonist is a little more interesting, initially coming across as mustache twirling evil, before proving there’s a bit more to him later on.
There is a budding romance between the main character, and his alien trainer, a beautiful blue skinned warrior, but given the context of what she’s been through and the timeframe, it’s probably best that this isn’t delved into too deeply. Mostly however, the emphasis is on action, not romance.
I liked the writing style, it was nice and clean with a satisfying flow to the story. The story moved along at a quick enough pace, never outstaying it’s welcome on any particular scene.
The beginning sets the scene for the story, introducing us to the main character and his motivations, while backstory on the setting is provided by another character. It’s a bit of an info dump, but works to introduce the world to the reader.
Ack. After building up expectations, showing the characters training hard, coming up with cunning plans to get out of their dire situation, when we actually get to the final confrontation, a literal deus ex machina occurs to save the day and unleash vengeance upon the aliens. This was extremely disappointing, as it essentially made the main character’s actions to this point meaningless. It’s not clear where the story goes from there, with one line of the ending implying a return to the status quo which is just not possible given what happened.
The cover art is not overly impressive, and it could actually spoil the twist at the end.
The blurb lets you know exactly what you’re getting into, without giving away too much, so it does it’s job.
Opening line: “I’m leaving son,” Scott said.
Highlights: Nice clean writing style, interesting universe.
Lowlights: A literal deus ex machina saves the day via a massive coincidence.
Final Thoughts: This was a fun little read, but as a self contained short story, the deus ex machina ending really lets it down, as it completely negates all efforts of the main character. This would probably work better as the first few chapters in a longer piece, where the universe could be fleshed out a bit more and the story could move on.
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