We’re reading finalists for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest, and I’ll have reviews up here for every single one! For more coverage of the contest, including many, many reviews and some interviews with authors, check out my SPSFC Hub!
In the Orbit of Sirens by T.A. Bruno
Humans are on the run, seeking refuge on a remote planet that holds more threats than it might initially seem. In the Orbit of Sirens is a space opera that features fantastic world-building and plenty of action to keep the story moving.
The major threads in the story are about the human refugees, a mysterious illness spreading among them, the resident lifeforms of the planet they landed upon, and an ancient threat that endangers them all. There’s a lot going on in the book, in other words, and with that comes a broad assortment of characters and settings. Space opera is absolutely the right description for this book. It’s got the drama and depth of an epic.
The story itself builds throughout the book, just as the world humans are exploring is built around them as the reader continues. The world-building is a huge strength of the book, as is Bruno’s penchant for pushing the plot along with punctuated action whenever it seems to be on the verge of getting too slow. As readers learn about the birdlike Auk’nai, the indigenous population of the planet, they discover a grand culture and nature populated in realistic ways. If there’s one area that I personally felt was a weakness, it would be the depth of the characters. There are many of them, and some of them don’t get enough development to make them as interesting as I’d hoped they’d be in such a rich setting. While they aren’t the deepest people brought to print, Bruno makes good use of them, including some surprising moments near the end. I also thought the book nailed the ending, leaving more avenues for exploration without it feeling like a letdown or a clear cliffhanger “gotcha” moment.
There are a surprising number of elements found in this book, too. There’s a helping of first contact, a little cosmic horror, a dose of space opera, and some thriller sprinkled on top for good measure. It makes the book feel fresh all the way through. The stakes are raised throughout the book, but I also struggled to get a full grasp on exactly how urgent the plight of humanity was in the novel. Was this a localized threat or was it truly a cosmic, possibly extinction-level threat that was happening? I do know that this book was enough of setup to get me interested in the next one.
A note about the audiobook, for those who enjoy them: I thought the reader for this one, Michael Reimer, did a fine job. It wasn’t too slow–an issue I often have–and I appreciated his range with voices and small effects here and there. Those looking to supplement their reading with some listening would do well checking this one out on audio.
In the Orbit of Sirens is a great space opera with enough world developed to set up for future installments. I found it an exciting read, and one that I’d recommend to other fans of the genre.
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