Review: “Homeworld Blues,” A. J. McMillan

Pros: Interesting premise
Cons: Inconsistencies, contradictions, and annoying characters
Rating: 2 out of 5

 

Homeworld Blues (Triworlds Revolution Book 1), by A. J. McMillan, starts off in a colony ship occupied by ‘officers’ and ‘civs’. It’s a fairly standard dystopian setup: no ‘natural’ babies; stereotypical loves-to-be-evil law enforcement officer; various ‘principles’ set down ages ago. There is one neat twist: the colony ships were given to the people of this world by an alien race in order to save them from some sort of cataclysm. Trayia is the product of a ‘natural’ birth between two people who loved each other, so the people in charge spaced the law-breaking couple (which doesn’t work with certain later developments) and sent the daughter down to grow up with the civs. She manages, however, to be one of a very few civs who claw their way back up to be officers. She’s sent on an undercover mission to ferret out rebellious civs, and that’s where everything starts to go wrong. I should note that the Principles that the two parents broke are mentioned nowhere else in the book that I can remember. You’d think that Trayia would at least give them some thought, if she’s so desperate to be viewed well by the other Officers. The story also contradicts itself. For example, supposedly being a ‘transplant’–a civ who gets made an officer–is the “highest honor” that can befall a civ (it’s described such that the civs themselves view this as a high honor). Yet that’s despite the fact that the civs are all oppressed and downtrodden to the point of possible rebellion.

I won’t go into the details of how Trayia ends up finding herself on the run from truly nasty aliens on a different world, because it would give too much away. She ends up on what I’m calling stoner-world, where everyone seems to be a stoner, slacker, hippie, or whatever. Happy-drugs are everywhere. This isn’t Earth, the locals aren’t actually speaking English, but everyone’s speech is rendered as hugely idiomatic English. It ruins the idea that this is an alien world, despite the fact that the ecology is very weird and distinctly non-Earthly. As far as I can tell there are only two modes of speech. One is that idiomatic non-English, and the other is a very stiff, robotic style (reserved for anyone ‘serious’). Note that anyone who’s supposed to be all serious is also depicted as being totally wooden. Dialogue tends to be awkward.

The author over-explains things, often in a repetitive manner. There are also a lot of contradictory details. For example, Trayia goes undercover, despite the fact that this is completely unrelated to her job. It’s supposed in part to be because she came from the civs and thus understands them better. Yet she doesn’t seem familiar with the civs at all, and she certainly can’t pass herself off as one of them when she’s using her robotic pattern of speech. Also, a lot of people seem to be in on her undercover gig despite the fact that her higher-ups think they have one or more people on the inside who are helping the civs. Note that she also declares that until now “I have always known my purpose in life.” No, no she hasn’t. She spent most of her life as a civ, and wouldn’t have predicted the position she ended up in.

The material that takes place in the ship early on is pretty much all stiff and serious, then everything gets silly with the stoner-world and the one human drummer who somehow shows up on the scene with no explanation. The tonal change is really weird. There’s the stereotypical blind sage who doesn’t need his eyes to see. Everyone obsesses over Traiya with only the barest justification. No one really questions how “Zepp”, the human from Earth, ends up on one of the other worlds, including him. Several times people get blamed for telling secrets out of turn, but no one ever told them these were secrets. Traiya is “overwhelmed … by the hustle and bustle” of the hippy world, even though she grew up in a hugely overcrowded and riotous part of the colony ship. She’s also described as a natural leader at one point–what on earth are these people using as a definition of a leader? She’s stiff and retiring and keeps hanging out in the background of things.

Anyway. There are many more specific examples I could cite, but I think you’ve got the gist of it by now. I have no interest in reading book two, and I had to fight my way through this one as I kept wanting to put it down and read something else.

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