Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Michael G. Thomas
(2011, Swordworks Books)

Star Crusades Uprising, book 1

A group of newly-trained marines attempt to take back an important military base taken over by a radical zealot group.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
January 14th to 19th, 2015


So poorly written that I almost put the book down after the first page. However, I persevered, and although the writing did not improve, the story grew into something that I could have enjoyed, given a different author. The conflict in that solar system and the history of it and the coming conflict are certainly worth pursuing, but I don't think I can read another book by this author.

Spoiler review:

For most of the book, I pretty much rewrote it in my own words in my mind, so that I could at least enjoy the story to a certain extent. The author overuses stock phrases has some favorite words. The grammar is horrendous and there are so many repeated words that it makes a more difficult read than it should have been. But once I got over the author's style, or lack thereof, and inserted my own words and corrected his phrasing, it was a pretty easy read. The book is quite short, ten chapters of 20-22 pages each, that it didn't take long to get through.

It's too bad the writing was so horrible, because there was a good story trying to get out, I think. The background was well thought-out. This is military science fiction, with lots of descriptions of weapons, ships, armor and fighting techniques. The evolution of the Commonwealth, with its capital on Proxima Prime, while Earth grew more remote and backwater, seemed quite realistic, and it held my interest in terms of culture and setting. The author talks of a war that occurred decades ago, which in a way spurred the current unrest, and which adds a nice touch of a backstory to the current conflict.

The story, the first in a large multi-book series which I will unfortunately not be reading, takes place almost entirely from the point of view of Spartan, a man who was sentenced to ten years in the marines after killing a police officer during a raid on illegal pit fight in which he was taking part (he had a choice, but the other option was go do a decade in prison). He goes through military training, and does well because he already has great fighting skills. What he lacks in precision shooting, he makes up for in hand-to-hand combat. During the training, we get to see various shooting techniques and bullets, which of course are all used to a certain extent later in the book.

The bad guys in the story are the generic religious zealots, identified only by their single-mindedness in destroying all who do not Believe. We are led to believe that they can convert planetfuls of people into this single-minded drive, thousands and thousands of them, who are all willing to give up their lives so that the dream of whatever they believe in can continue. They often don't even carry long-range weapons, so they throw their lives away into a wall of bullet-fire. While I can see a number of people doing this, the zealots seem to have recruited such a number that defies all reason, given the size of the population. It is not even clear if they give people a chance to convert before killing them.

The first half of the book tells us about Spartan's training and how he meets his current group of comrades, Teresa, Jesus, and others. I really wondered if we were going to see the trio of men he assaulted before his training even began. Maybe they show up in a future book -otherwise I'm not sure of the purpose of that fight.

We also get introduced to a Lieutenant on a warship who has invented a new type of projectile weapon for use in its railguns. It is obvious that this technique will be used later in the book, and the only surprise is how late they wait to use it. When the uprising starts, he is almost killed, but signals an alarm that alerts the senior crew to the potential takeover, which is thwarted.

The fleet is put into action as the zealots take control of the largest military base in the sector, as well as the space stations that provide access to the surface of the planet. The new recruits such as Spartan's group is put in charge of silencing the guns so that troops can land and rescue civilians and military personnel. The fighting is well described, once the sentence structure and grammar is corrected, and it is all very exciting. The author managers to pour much intensity into the writing despite his inability to write. By the end, I was interested, despite myself.

Spartan and his group manage to fight their way through to the control center and silence the guns, while the battle cruisers slug it out a little further away. Spartan then takes his group to rescue another cell of civilians as the cruiser finally uses the modified weapons to cover a boarding party that destroys its power plant, rendering it useless.

There is not much else to the book, except getting inside the control center and the brief action on the battle cruiser. Things go fast, and there is not actually much more that could be told. The book ends with the zealots routed from the military base, but suddenly on the attack on Prime itself with mutant or hybrid humans, who have weapons and armor embedded within their bodies, making them very difficult to kill. It is really an introduction to the second book, and didn't really fit within the rest of this story, though the setup is there.

The hero of the book survives, as does Teresa, with whom Spartan has fallen in love, though they only share sex and concern for each other at this point. One of the main supporting characters dies, but the door is left open for him to return as possibly one of those transformed zealots. Other characters are not so lucky, like the ones on the automated transfer ship, who were there only to show us how the zealots hijacked their ship to crash into the military base and take it over.

Although the descriptions of weapons and armor are given in detail, there is too much comparison of them to the way things were done in the twentieth century, as if the readers can't imagine things by ourselves, to we need to be reminded of how navy operations are done in our own time. It would have been more interesting if he compared things to the 22nd century techniques, as if we already knew about them.

I wish the writing in this book was better, because I think I could have gotten interested in the rest of the series. But I'm not planning to put myself through that kind of writing again.


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