Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Crossline Book Review

by The Wanderer
Author: Russ Colchamiro
Publisher: Crazy 8 Press
Genre: Humor, Space Opera
Series: Standalone
Pages: 315

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He Left The Planet Earth Very Much The Same Way He Arrived. Alone.

(Crossline was provided to us by the author, Russ Colchamiro, and Crazy 8 Press).

I didn’t have the highest of expectations for Crossline when I first heard about it. A guy flying a new spaceship through a wormhole didn’t really pique my interest. Needless to say, not since I had negatively prejudged Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus could I have been more wrong.

Colchamiro manages to keep his satire entertaining, while telling a very compelling story.  His cast of characters, large for a 300 page book, are not only easy to laugh with, but they’re also very empathetic, and they come with a diverse range of personalities, flaws, moralities, and quirks. The story also gets a lot more depth from asking pertinent questions about fate, freewill, and responsibility along with asking the question, how far will you go to protect your family?
Highly recommended, Crossline is an overachieving underdog – a space opera that’s often light hearted and humorous, but also provokes some thoughtful questions about the world we live in.

On modern day Earth, the powerful CEO of Taurus Enterprises, Buddy Rheams, worked his whole life to build and launch Crossline – the world’s first spaceship that can reach the speed of light.  After extensive testing, pilot Marcus Powell is selected to man this spacecraft for the first time.

After a successful launch and testing of the spacecraft’s capabilities, Marcus see’s another spacecraft just like his near the rings of Saturn and follows it through a wormhole.  His impulse decision brings him to a parallel world like Earth called Aretha where he gets caught in the middle of the planet’s Civil War.  Not wanting to become another wartime casualty and desperately wishing to get home; finding a solution to Aretha’s global conflict might just be the answer.

After Marcus’s disappearance, his wife Chandra and his young daughter Jesse begin to investigate Buddy Rheams – fearing that the reclusive CEO is not being honest about the Crossline project.

I like the layered meanings behind the title Crossline.  Sure it’s the name of Powell’s ship, and it also references that point in decision making where oftentimes you can’t go back, but it even seems to take on a new meaning when trying to classify the genre of this book as a work of satire or a space adventure.  You could almost split the categorization 50/50 right down the middle between those two genres, creating another metaphorical crossline.

Buddy Rheams and the plot arc surrounding him were the best parts of the book.  Buddy makes some of the most difficult decisions from a moral standpoint, and the conflicts this character faces made reading his plot arc the most thought provoking.  Marcus’s wife Chandra turns out to provide a lot of the comic relief.  She smokes a lot of pot and tells a lot of stories relating to her Native American heritage.  This leads to a number of entertaining situations throughout the novel, my personal favorite being Chandra’s story about Arrow Woman.   From a moral standpoint, she is one of the soundest characters … unless you oppose smoking marijuana.

From a humor standpoint the author excels at creating humorous situations, many of which feature Chandra’s and Chill’s drug use and Marcus’s strange but endearing companions on Aretha.  Colchamiro also writes some funny dialogue, a lot of which is directed at Powell and his ignorance while he’s on Aretha.  There are also a lot of exclamitive sound effect neologisms, a stylistic effect that helps make the novel even quirkier.

The author can get a bit heavy on plot twists, most of these work, but a few of them didn’t.  The resolution to the Keela and Marcus plot line left me hot and cold … cold being the way it was first resolved; hot being how the resolution was utilized in the final chapter.  The twist ending with Aranuke and Chang didn’t work for me either, it wasn’t believable and it didn’t feel necessary.
I’ve got to admit I was never a big fan of Powell’s character. He’s by no means bad, but compared to his morally deep and/or wacky supporting cast, he can look real conventional. Powell only narrates about a quarter of the book, and once other narrators start telling their stories, I found them to be a lot more interesting and proactive.

Although there are a few issues, I can’t stress the “this is a good story,” part of the review enough. Colchamiro never lets the story get sacrificed for humor or to preach ideas.  A big part of the book’s success is due to how easy the author makes it to empathize with these characters. I could feel pangs in my chest for them; there hasn’t been a sci-fi satire book that’s done that to me since I’ve read the novels of Kurt Vonnegut.  This book’s recommended to people who’re looking to avoid the storied conventions of books published by traditional publishing houses, or to people who’re interested in a space opera that blends action, humor, and provocative ideas.

Score: 8.8

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