Thursday, August 14, 2014

EMBASSY: A Refreshing Journey

This is a new ARC review Embassy received on Amazon yesterday. It's really in-depth, so I got permission to post it here.

Embassy will be available in print on October 10, 2014.

Review by Melissa J. Troutman
Author of Trust and Deception.


Embassy is not a science fiction adventure novel. Rather, it is a science fiction journey novel, perhaps the first of its kind I have ever read. I started it expecting aliens, laser gunfights, and spaceship battles. You know, like Stars Wars, or the new Star Trek, or the rest of science fiction that’s out there.

It took me until 80% through the book to realize there would be no aliens, no gunfights, no battles. Instead, Embassy follows the quieter, internal journey of a young man named Arman Lance and his dreams of finding the only person who will make him happy after his father’s death.

I enjoyed Embassy. I was hooked from the beginning, wanting to see if Arman would make it into Undil’s Embassy Program. Subsequent intrigue kept me in the story, such as whether he would find Ladia, what would happen to Belvun and its spreading desert, and if Arman would be happy again.

These hooks were well placed, because Arman as a character didn’t grab me. He starts the book quiet, antisocial, and too focused on his one goal of finding Ladia. Not much to like. Yet he was real: coping with the unexpected loss of his father, burdened to provide for his mother and sisters, driven to find the girl he loved, and anxious to get away from home. A typical young man. I haven’t read many books told from the male perspective, but I thought Arman’s character and voice were accurate to real life. Points for that.

The universe was also accurate. My thanks to the author for portraying the zero gravity between planet and spaceship, for mentioning the gravity simulators on the ship, and for having his characters throw up after their first space journeys. (Gross, I know, but realistic.) Points for that.

Even the science fiction part of the universe was realistic. I’m leery of reading sci-fi and fantasy because I tend to get lost in other people’s imaginations. S. Alex Martin, however, did an excellent job building his world. Though I didn’t fully grasp everything the first read through—I never do—I was struck by how neat his planets, politics, and technology were. He obviously thought through his world-building, and it shows. Points for that.

I didn’t find the writing itself to be anything stellar. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When a book is written in first person, the narrative is the voice of the main character. If Arman were a writer, I would expect flowery prose and stunning descriptions and breathtaking turns of phrase. Maybe. :) Since he is not a writer, however, the simpler writing style is fine. It suits his character. (Note: I thought the present tense to be handled well. I don’t usually like reading present tense, but Embassy’s style read comfortably.)

Final notes: the turn of events both surprised and pleased me. As a reader, I enjoy surprises. Points for the satisfying ending and the unexpected way there. Also, I found Embassy’s storyline refreshingly unique: the main character doesn’t have to save the world, nor does his athletic female friend have to call upon her skills to “kick butt.” Embassy was like a breath of fresh air in that respect. I give points for that too. And it was a clean read. I think there was only one d-word in the whole book.

One part at the end did disappoint me, though. Arman sleeps with his girlfriend, and that bothered me. I had hoped for a book without that kind of thing. But in this regard, Embassy is just like the rest of the YA fiction out there. Points removed for that.

Overall, Embassy is the unique journey of a young man who is teachable and respectful, who comes to admire his old coworker and appreciate his young friend, who starts quiet and unhappy but ends quiet and appreciative. This book shows great character transformation. It also reminds readers that seclusion damages rather than helps, and that there is healing in reaching out and opening up.

Yes, I enjoyed reading Embassy. Yes, I would recommend it to the right friends. And yes, I would read S. Alex Martin’s next book.


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