War of the Soulites by Natasha Bennett

Renolds Osirus spent most of his life as an accountant. To his shock, his life-long dream of becoming a spaceship captain is suddenly granted, and before he can even celebrate, Earth is decimated by a race of mysterious and terrifying aliens. His new ship, the Vigilant, is transported to hostile territory.

Vigilant’s first officer, Marcus Collingway, is a terrorist leader and a mass murderer. Long believed dead, he suffers the crew’s wrath when he’s blamed for the attack on Earth. As Renolds investigates, he exposes a complex web of secrets and lies.

Now trapped on a crippled ship, can the captain and first officer work together to save the Vigilant from alien Soulites?

war-of-the-soulitesSet in the 29th century, War of the Soulites is a story of one ship stranded in another universe after an attack on Earth by the Soulites. The crew of this ship include a captain that has only recently been given the command, a security officer that is the only survivor when the ship disappeared nearly two decades ago, a first officer that was also an instrumental part of the resistance and accused of murdering hundreds of people, a telepath that finds herself the only one that is willing to help the rest of the crew and an engineer that has been melded with an AI. Suffice to say that this is a mish mash crew that have only been together for days at the most before their ship, the Vigilant, is put back into service.

As for the story, with the ship doing its first flight with the new crew Earth is attacked by the Soulites. They take heavy damage in the battle and while the destruction of other ships is taking place they find themselves pulled into another universe, one of liquid space, and a place home to the Soulites. Once here they must repair the Vigilant and try to find a way home, but along the way come across human survivors, are attacked again and also discover the Soulite base.

I wanted to like War of the Soulites. I really, really did. It started off great with a prologue looking at the fighting between NAVA and the rebels, but once we skipped to the start of the story things just didn’t quite mesh properly. One of the things I instantly thought was that this was like an episode of Star Trek, the way the characters interact, situations reveal themselves and details that are never quite explained until the end of the story. Usually I can get past this – and I made an effort to by plowing on – but it left me disappointed. One of the main reasons for this was the way we would skip ahead in the story, missing out sections that could have proved very interesting and led to more plot development and character expansion for the reader.

I was also left wanting when it came to the history of the setting we’re in – the isn’t really any. True, the NAVA vs the rebels plot is one that is strong throughout, but considering we’re in the 29th century there is a surprising lack of any depth to the universe. One section made reference to the galaxy being explored in 20 years, which is frankly unbelievable, especially as it makes out that this has only recently happened. War of the Soulites falls flat when you look past the story and into the setting, and in a sci-fi novel of this scope that can be one of the most damaging things.

There are a couple of further issues I have with War of the Soulites. One of these is the way that the characters show a surprising lack of emotion after seeing the Earth attacked and presumed destroyed and then being sent into another universe. This area was so ripe for further expansion and a much deeper look at the effects of this would have helped hugely. The final problem I had is the way that the Vigilant is at one moment on the brink of being destroyed and wrecked (apparently almost beyond recovery) and the next it’s capable of scanning halfway across the galaxy they are in to get a detailed idea of the Soulites base. And it’s not just this one time, there are many times that disbelief has to be suspended a little too much, and that doesn’t help the story at all.

All in all I was very disappointed with War of the Soulites. It felt thrown together rather than fleshed out and expanded – there was certainly plenty of room to do so. Despite this I find myself drawn to the story here and wondering how it will continue in the upcoming sequel. If you want a quick read that is fast paced and aren’t too bothered about a story lacking depth, then this is perhaps a book for you. For sci-fi fans that have read plenty that the genre has to offer this is one to skip, there are better examples out there and more worthy of your time.

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