Author: Eric Brown
Publisher: Newcon Press
Release Date: April 2009
Reviewed by: Mark Chitty
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
David Conway leads a quiet life in picturesque Magenta Bay on the colony world of Chalcedony. Nothing much has happened for five years, but all that is about to change. First he meets the mysterious holo star Carlotta Chakravorti-Luna, who regrets the lost loves of her past and dreams of learning what the future might hold. Then Conway's alien friend Kee heads inland to take part in an Ashentay ritual with potentially fatal consequences. What follows is a convoluted and poignant tragedy which entangles Conway and his friends. In Starship Fall, Eric Brown has crafted a powerful, moving novella about love, friendship, and the consequences of learning one's destiny.
Starship Summer was a novella I picked up after I had read and enjoyed some of Eric Brown's other novels. I wasn't too sure what to expect, and came across a novella that had so many different levels to it, from the characters to the setting and story, and thoroughly enjoyed what I found. When I discovered that it was only the first of a projected four novellas (the Starship Seasons series), I knew that I was going to pick up the rest as a matter of urgency.
I actually read Starship Fall, the second of the series, around two years ago, shortly after I first read Summer. I had planned to review it then, but circumstances were against me and it's taken me a little longer to get around to reviewing it than I initially planned! I've recently re-read Fall (and Summer) to refresh my memory before going into Starship Winter (which was released a few months back and is still sitting on my shelf unread, much to my shame), while the final instalment, Starship Spring, is due out shortly.
In Starship Fall we pick up some years after the events of Summer. The Golden Column on Chalcedony has opened up interstellar travel to humanity on a much cheaper scale than the previous Telemass system, creating Columns on each planet it visits. But Chalcedony is still a quiet planet, with Magenta Bay a beach side town with not much going on. It is here where David Conway lives, spending his time reading, relaxing, and enjoying the company of his small group of friends - Matt, a famous crystal artist, his partner Maddie, Hawk, a former spaceship pilot and owner of a spaceship scrap yard near the town, and his alien girlfriend, Kee, a member of the native Ashentay race. When a newcomer, the famous holo-star Carlotta Chakravorti-Luna, arrives in Magenta Bay, David finds himself drawn to her. And when Kee disappears to take part in the old Ashentay ritual of smoking the bones, a series of events unfold that reveals the past of one of David's group.
Brown shows once again how capable he is at writing heartfelt and character driven stories. While set on an alien planet, with alien rituals at the centre of the story, it's completely relatable. There is no hard science involved - a staple of Brown's work - which allows you to invest in David, Matt, Maddie, Hawk, and Kee, and follow them through the events of Fall. It's all about the characters, the location, the feeling. Starship Fall hits the spot with all of them, and the story works perfectly in harmony with all aspects. It may not be a long novella, but it gives more to the reader than most full length stories.
While set on the same planet with the same group of friends, you don't have to read Summer before Fall - they're both individual self-contained stories. However, I'd advise that you do, simply as the characters are multi-layered and by reading the stories in order you get a much better experience, knowing more about each than you would do approaching Fall first.
Personally I'm looking forward to get straight on to reading Starship Winter to see what's next in store for David Conway and his group of friends...