Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Author: Nathan Lowell
Genre: science fiction
Price: $10.87 (paperback) / $4.95 (Kindle)
Publisher: Ridan Publishing
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Amazon has a “recommended for you” list that I occasionally visit. Now that I buy ebooks, I’ve noticed some new authors showing up on the recommended list. One of those authors was Nathan Lowell, a very prolific SF author publishing through Ridan Publishing. Ridan is a small commercial publishing firm that uses POD for their paper books and does a lot of marketing on their ebook line. Their marketing was sufficient to convince me to spring for the $4.95 and buy the Kindle version of Quartershare, the lead book in Lowell’s “Golden Age of the Solar Clipper” series.
Lowell’s book starts, ironically, in a very similar fashion to my first novel The Mars Run, in that a young 18-year-old is forced by circumstances to sign on as a crewman on a merchant space ship. In Lowell’s case, the 18-year-old is Ishmael Horatio Wang, and the circumstances that force him to ship out are the death of his mother. They are living on the planet Neris, a “company planet” where you’re either an employee of the company or need to pack up and leave. Thus Ishmael gets a berth as a mess steward on the Lois McKendrick. As a mess steward, he is eligible for a quarter share of the ship’s profit, thus the title of the book.
I suppose the nice way to describe how the rest of the book unfolds would be to say “gentle.” A less nice way would be to say “nothing happens,” because, well, not much happens. There are no aliens, pirates or other serious bad guys in Quartershare, and the one serious event, a mugging, is off-screen. Quartershare is the story of Ishmael figuring out how the society of the ship works while handling the everyday drills and work of the crew. There is absolutely no formal training or orientation offered to Ishmael, which I found very unusual.
Having called the book “gentle,” I should say that I found it both enjoyable and interesting. In writing, a work falls on a continuum from “plot-driven” to “character-driven.” Quartershare is definitely a character-driven book, and it works because, thanks to the author, we care about all of the characters. They are realistic, interesting and likeable, so the fact that they’re not running around saving the Universe is okay. The author spent a few years in the US Coast Guard, and his experiences there show through in subtle details about what lubricates shipboard life.
Quartershare is a short book, clocking in at 282 pages, but one I found quite enjoyable to read.