Sunday, July 12, 2009

REVIEW: Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries

Title: Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries
Author: Vincent Lowry
Genre: science fiction
Price: $14.95
Publisher: Mill City Press
ISBN: 978-1-934937-35-8
Point of Sale: Author’s site
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I recently received Vincent Lowry’s first novel, Constellation Chronicles: The Lost Civilization of Aries. It’s an interesting book, and one that I am finding difficult to review. From a technical point of view, the only flaw I see is a tendency to italicize brand names. Otherwise, the writing is clear and entertaining. Yet I still am a bit ambivalent about the book. I think part of my difficulty is that the book is really a novelization of Lowry’s so-far unproduced screenplay.

The plot of the book is simple enough. Glenn Sawyer is a teenager living in Rigel, New Mexico. Glenn’s a geek – interested in alien civilizations and flying saucers. Then one stormy night, something crashes in the desert outside town. Glenn, who happens to be driving by with his grade-school-aged sister, stops and investigates. The object proves to be some kind of spacecraft, and one of its occupants, a small furry biped, tags along for the ride back to Glenn’s house for dad’s digital camera. Due to various issues at the Sawyer house, Glenn returns alone to the spaceship, and meets the crew, who are giant creatures resembling polar bears.

This is the point where the plot and I part company. We are told that Glenn’s visit to the spaceship is no accident, and that the aliens are the survivors of a civilization destroyed in a war, a war which is on its way to Earth. Glenn’s help is required to save Earth from this threat.

Now, here’s where I’m having difficulties. If your exposure to science fiction is limited to movies and TV, this plot is believable, if a bit overdone (how many “Chosen Ones” are there, anyway?) If you get your science fiction from reading, the plot doesn’t work – at least not on paper. Whisk me along on an epic voyage, show me some pretty pictures and blow stuff up real good on screen, and I’d probably consider it okay.

Here are just a few of the TV tropes that I found irritating in the book:

* Crew of starship is in suspended animation, but they don’t wake up until after the ship has crashed. (Shouldn’t they wake up well before the ship approaches the planet?)
* Instant and fluent command of English by aliens.
* Space dogfights at extreme close range.
* Super-thick asteroid belts, or in this case, Kuiper belt.
* Captains of ships representing two warring alien races know each other’s name, and routinely communicate with each other during battle.

On the other hand, while not super believable, the book tells an entertaining tale. Lowry is a good writer, and Glenn seems to be a believable teen. Compared to, say, the latest Transformers movie, the plot is a marvel of believability and comprehension.


No comments: