The Legend of Team 9: An Away Science Fiction Book
Copyright 2012 by Norman Oro
Available at CreateSpace
Available at Amazon
This book is a short read, part of a series of sci-fi books by Norman Oro recounting the adventures of "Team 9" (think SG1 in Star Gate), in the long-standing science fiction tradition of the small group of can-do folks who are called in whenever the impossible is required to save the world, the galaxy, or the universe.
Not exactly a new theme, you say, and you'd be right, but this book is interesting because it brings in a whole new set of issues that crop up (as is often the case) when the seemingly straightforward mission goes out of control in unexpected ways that have to be dealt with.
In Oro's sci-fi universe, mankind has stumbled upon immortality. People no longer age. They can stay young and healthy and keep at their work indefinitely, which is a big win for scientists studying phenomena (in this case the Allen field, the source of their fountain of youth) that don't easily yield their secrets. Periodically, however, something has begun to interrupt the field, and they have to find out what it is or lose all the new benefits that come with longevity, including the ability to travel instantaneously by thinking of where they want to go. All work on mechanical travel is no longer necessary, but what if they can't fix the Allen field and they have to go back to the "good old days?" They are definitely not ready for that.
There are areas where the reader is asked to ponder the ways that myth and reality intersect, and get some idea of possibilities if quantum theory is on target, and there are some great flights of imagination, and that I do appreciate.
Having said that, this author needs to do more work on character development. The team, the single most important part of the story, the ones who need to save everyone, don't seem to have a past, and don't have many readily identifying characteristics. For example, in dialogue, the author almost needs to say who said what, because sometimes they just seem clones of one another, but in other places it's clear that they are not, and there are stories to tell about them, but the author doesn't seem to see how important that is to the reader.
In some ways this book feels like a take-off point for a larger, far more powerful story, but we're just seeing the bare bones. We're left to somewhat fill in with our imaginations what characters look like, or guessing about why they would be motivated to do what they do. The evil bad force that appears to be causing the problem is extremely nebulous and seems to be evil for evil's sake without reason for it. Often an author knows all of the complicated relationships, internal contradictions and character motivations, and doesn't realize that he hasn't really made them clear to the reader (or if it's a series, all that gets put in the first book, and the author doesn't realize that putting some of that into the sequel, even if as flashbacks or a paragraph or two of a character's recollection of the past, will help readers who didn't start at book one get interested enough to go back to search for earlier books because they are now intrigued and want the full context). I found myself interested in finding out the earlier information about how they discovered the Allen field, and wondered about the history of the characters. Maybe what we're looking at is a series of small books that could be seen as chapters in a much larger work, and perhaps they will be incorporated at some point in the future.
The reason that character development is important is that science fiction is an eclectic genre in the extreme. Authors are constantly building on and expanding one another's ideas, incorporating them into new works or shifting emphasis to fit slightly different stories (think of all the robot related stories that were descendants of Isaac Asimov's robot universe). This book is full of very interesting ideas, but without the corresponding character development, they won't get the attention they deserve; they can easily be snatched up by other authors eager to run with them, and with more polished character development skills and those authors might be the ones credited with the ideas because those books will have made more of an impression on their readers.
Oro is definitely on to something, but there are certainly things that need improvement. I like the scope and the intersection of technology, physics and myth, so for those readers who like to stretch out into new ideas, it's a quick interesting read.