Review: “Elixr,” Joshua James

Pros: Nifty plot and setup
Cons: Some flimsy characters; a bit surface-level
Rating: 3 out of 5

Joshua James is the author of the “Lucky’s Marines” military sci-fi books, which I’m quite fond of, so when Elixr: The Lost Starship (Book 1) came out, I had to read it. It’s aimed at a bit of a different audience–the main characters are much younger, the plot is simpler, and there’s little gore and cursing. Noah and Will are brothers, and they are the only living occupants of the spaceship Elixr. Before their time, Captain Bellamy was bringing a cure for a mysterious condition back to his people. A man on board who wanted to control who got that cure led a mutiny. Bellamy told the ship to “Save the cure. Kill the crew.” Because of this, Noah and Will have been raised by Sark, or SRK-47A, a malfunctioning teacherbot that can’t seem to explain to them what their mysterious and all-important “mission” is–just that they have one. Noah is having seizures that are getting closer together; he’s the adventurous one of the two boys. Will would rather not put himself in danger, but he’s determined to watch out for Noah regardless. Everything changes when the ship crash-lands on a planet. Will is taken prisoner by Lord Killoran, who knows about, and wants, the cure. Noah is rescued by Tai and the Faithful, who worship him as a prophesied healer. Noah is determined to save his brother, even though it might be suicide to try–but the Faithful need him to save their world.

The real interest in this story, for me, was the whole plot about the cure. It isn’t a cure to your standard fictional plague. The boys have what they call an “auric,” sort of a field of power that’s native to themselves that they can use for various purposes such as healing or strengthening themselves, as well as for activating certain kinds of technology. The ship also has an auric. On the planet, no one has an auric. Tak–or technology with auric power–is collected up and its energy used to keep the City of Light safe under Killoran’s control. An event called the Inversion is responsible for the fact that people and nature no longer have the auric. The cure is meant to fix this situation, because the city will run out of Tak to scavenge eventually. This is really creative and interesting.

The characters don’t have as much depth as I’d like. Killoran is pretty much the standard crazy evil tyrant. The people who work for him seem one-sidedly bad. SARK is my favorite character out of the bunch, despite the fact that he’s really just a helper.

I think this qualifies as a novel rather than a novella, but as novels go it’s relatively short, and the plot is fairly simple. I would have liked to see a bit more to it. Despite the fact that I enjoyed the story, I don’t particularly find myself wanting to read the next installment.

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