Review: Through The Hostage – J.C. Steel

Through the Hostage J C SteelSeries: Cortii 1

My version: Paperback
Genre: Science Fiction
J.C. Steel
First published: 2015
Supplied by agent

From the cover:

Khyria Ilan is a commander in the Cortii. The most elite mercenary organisation in known space. With a past she can’t remember, and commanders who would love to see her dead, her future is likely to be short: her command faces their ultimate test to prove their right to survive.

When the odds are impossible, sometimes the only thing to do is play the game…

A new name to an old Sci-Fi fan like me, J.C. Steel has created an impressively strong new Sci-Fi epic series.

Bursting with fresh ideas – perhaps too many ideas giving more than a little of a ‘crammed’ feel to the early chapters at least. At the start of our entry to a new Universe, we need to be led gently. I can understand that maybe she was after a feeling of the reader joining a fully-formed story, in a fully-functioning universe, with all the elements underway already, but we do need some markers, some recognisable landmarks – from our own time – to help us get a grasp of what’s going on. Otherwise, she’s going to lose new readers, who would think “What the heck? I thought that she was…oh bugger it, life’s too short…” In my defence, I have defended my policy of always reading and finishing books against these arrogant know-it-all bigots several times.

Then, around the p70 mark, something happens. Is it the hostage of the title? Is it something else? Where were we? Were we really on…? The whole time? And what is The Crossing then?

Obviously, you’ll have to read it to find out, but suddenly, in a moment, the whole story, the descriptions, the new worlds, begin to make sense. My mind has something, an idea, to hang on to and put all that has gone before, and all that comes after, into its place. “Ahh! So that’s it. I see it now!” And from there on, it unfolds to become the start of what promises to be really richly imagined, fully-fledged science-fiction epic. The characters fold out to become more than just black and white sketches, to become fully fledged, nuanced shades of interesting and, in the case of Ilan, highly intriguing. They make me, if not exactly want to be them (!), find out more about them. There are some rocky parts of course, the names and the assumptions that we know already exactly what she’s talking about, can be confusing sometimes, but after the first hallelujah! moment, I forgave her that. J.C. Steel is a woman (!), so the woman characters are correspondingly the lead figures and very strongly portrayed. That’s a first for my Sci-Fi reading (in my defence, I haven’t really been near Sci-Fi genre in a long time).

My only other problem is one of the names. Though this isn’t limited to, or begun by, this book, to be fair. It’s also true of most Fantasy and/or Sci-Fi books. No two names are ever the same. Have you noticed? And all, all, all, even in the future, or the long forgotten past, have different spelling – not always based on the idea of names/words being pronounced differently back then (or forward then) – to anything we know how to pronounce now. I mean…I know, even here in Denmark, of another person with my forename. On a Facebook group I’m a member of, there’s another guy who shares my surname. With a book like Through The Hostage, some more regular – spelling, at least – names would have helped tremendously. And, referring to the main character, or other characters, by different names, doesn’t add depth, just confusion in the start, until their character develops. If you have a name that is difficult to pronounce – in your mind – easily first time, then my mind skates over it, doesn’t then really get a grip for the rest of the book. Accordingly, the character becomes rather anonymous. There were Stephens and Davids two hundred years ago, and it could be possible that a ‘Steve’ or ‘Dave’ exists two hundred years in our future, so why assume that names have become so radically different? If you really want to be irritated by this sort of thing, go read some Robert Jordan.

However, Returning to the matter in hand…if you can get through the smoke and confusion the fire and the sound blast of the opening, I promise you will be richly rewarded and, not least, entertained by Through The Hostage.

You can buy Through The Hostage from The Book Depository


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