Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Odette C. Bell
(2014, Kindle)

Ouroboros, book 1

A clumsy and inept cadet succumbs to an alien possession, while those around her, especially one of her commanders, try to find out how this happened.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
June 4th to 11th, 2023


With very juvenile writing, and an alien possession storyline that moves glacially along, I couldn’t finish this book fast enough. The writing felt like the dictation of an immature teen in a lot of places, but managed to use fancy words and flowery phrases in other parts of the book, as if the author had a bunch of them waiting to be inserted into the text. It takes so long to get anywhere, as the same emotions or thoughts are repeated endlessly for pages, often in the same way. We learn nothing new by the end of each chapter. Most of the book takes place before the possession gains hold, and where we learn over and over and over again that Nida is clumsy and inept and everyone considers her the worst cadet ever. Yet somehow she continues to pass and advance. Then we have Carson Blake, who is following her around like a puppy dog, worrying over her, chastising himself for doing nothing, but continuing to do nothing. I think that although he’s the darling of the Coalition forces, he is another candidate for worst soldier ever. As an aside, he’s many years older than Nida or Alycia, yet still agrees to go out on a date with these cadets? It seems inappropriate. Once the possession takes hold of Nida, the story starts moving a little faster, which isn’t saying much. Neither Nida nor Blake actually do anything, just reacting to either the alien entity (the author feels the need to tell us “they were now calling it the entity”) or the alien pirates. It seems to me that while the entity didn’t want to hurt the humans, it became corrupted by engaging the pirates, and so failed at its desired outcome. I’m not sure what the point of this story was. I think it could have used a good editor, and more of a firm hand to get the writing up to a good standard. The author had some decent ideas, like the implant that guides suitably energized materials, the inertia-warping countermeasures, which at least gives it some science. But the fiction needs a lot of work, and a lot fewer words, to make it readable.

Spoiler review:

I made the mistake of buying the full series of four books before reading the first one. I now dread reading the others, but probably will (they are on my e-bookshelf, after all). The writing sucked what little life this story had out of it from the very beginning. I can’t stress enough how annoying and distracting this is. It seemed like it was being dictated, but that the author was hanging out with her teen friends at the time. It wasn’t only the dialog that was immature and juvenile, but the thoughts and narration, too.

How many times does the author have to stress that Nida is the worst cadet in 1000 years? At least every chapter, and just for good measure, multiple times in the early chapters. I suppose that’s one way to drag out the word count, because nothing much happens anyways. In some cases, this does the story good, though, in that nobody does anything stupid, because they do very little of anything at all.

On the other hand, the juvenile writing was supplemented by a lot of very nice, flowery phrases that gave wonderful visuals. If there was one thing I liked about this book, it was these flowery phrases, even though in many cases they were completely out of place. This was countered every time we got to Carson’s chapters, where he would get frustrated and think “damn” every so often, which also seemed out of place.

To say that the writing hindered enjoyment of this book would be an understatement, and I think the author should have gone through an editor, or if it was intentional, should have had somebody give an honest opinion on how the book sounded. An example is where, in many places, Carson would think to himself that Nida was in trouble, but he didn’t know why, only she was in trouble, and he had to do something, but didn’t know what to do, or why he thought she was in trouble. It frustrated him that he didn’t know what to do, and decided that he must do something, like comfort her, but didn’t know if she would like that, so he wrestled with his thoughts while he tried to figure out why he wanted to comfort her, and why he thought she was in trouble… This goes on for pages at a time.

Enough about the writing… The story is a typical alien possession. Nida, being clumsy, as we are told so many times, falls down a set of stairs that seems to disappear when people are looking for her. She blacks out after handling a blue energy in a sphere held by a statue.

Returning home, she feels different, but can’t explain it. This lasts for a good chunk of the book. Carson, meanwhile, worries about her. During training with one of the only solid ideas in this story, the implant that can manipulate special magnetized objects, one of the objects lunges at her. Why the entity would want to impale her isn’t made clear in this book; maybe we’ll get an explanation in a later book. I only wish the author hadn’t said later that the weapons made from this magnetized metal were worthless because the pirates and other species had counter-agents. So what is the purpose of them? Oh, and Carson continues to worry and pay her unexplained visits.

Later, Nida is practicing with a magnetized training ball, which manages to evade all the experts in this technology (including Carson) and punch a hole through her super-steel door (why is it so well-made? –dorms usually have thin, useless doors). Only by abusing his priviledges as a mid-ranking military officer can he override her door lock and override her implant to shut it off. This begs the question of why he has such powers? He’s obviously immature himself, even if he is the leader of the Force, a super military group that gets sent on all kinds of dangerous missions. He’s ready to date a cadet at the same academy where he hangs out with apparently nothing else to do between missions, though he does get to help out at the class where Nida is almost killed.

When the entity finally starts taking over Nida (as if the two training balls were just practice), another object nearly impales her, and when the blue energy prevents Alycia (her roommate) from forcibly removing the implant (what’s with these people –isn’t that just as dangerous?), the senior management finally start to take her seriously. Suddenly she’s under quarantine, and an Admiral is telling Carson she can’t tell him anything, while at the same time telling him that they have no idea what’s happening, and that she is getting worse.

Carson begs to be sent back to the planet where Nida was infected, and after saying no, the Admiral agrees to his mission. Then Nida’s entity takes over and uses an Academy failsafe to transport all people out of the hospital and outside the building, warping bullets around her like she was a tornado. Since when did this universe have Star Trek transporters? Any why aren’t they used to get them to the ground on the alien planet or Nida to safety when attacked by pirates?

Nida, possessed by the entity, steals a spaceship and heads out to the planet where she was infected, and where coincidentally Carson is approaching right when she arrives.

But the enemies of the Confederation are pirates, who are lying in wait for unsuspecting humans to enter a system that has only been explored once. Must be a boring job. They attack Carson, who defeats them with his cool inertia-countering defenses, yet when Nida shows up in her damaged craft, also having been attacked in her less armored craft, he doesn’t fire a second time. Instead, he deflects their attacks with countermeasures, which eventually run out.

So he’s boarded, as is Nida’s craft, but the blue entity envelopes her with its energy which allows her to transfer to Carson’s ship across empty space. It also kills every pirate on board, dozens if not hundreds (Carson’s ship seemed a lot smaller, but is apparently the size of the Enterprise). It had explained to her that it didn’t want to get corrupted, so it kept the humans at the Academy alive, but here it doesn’t even ask for an explanation before it starts killing pirates. Only Nida’s shout allows Carson to live when he gets in the way.

They mop up from the battle, with Carson intently aware of Nida’s conflicted feelings at being the entity’s instrument when it killed the pirates, and then they land. At this point, Carson seems to have forgotten about his scanner, which they could have tracked, and they wander around for a while before finding the staircase. But there’s a twist –the room where Nida was infected by the entity is in the wrong time, and the entity can’t get back? Huh?

I was ready to go with that for a bit, when Carson suddenly gets a glove that gives him incredible entity-like powers, so he can kill the invading pirates. Eventually, Nida’s entity manages to create a time portal, and they escape into it, trying to get back to a time where it can hide itself, so the universe doesn’t collapse into it like the magnetized objects that were attracted to Nida.

We know at the end that something bad is going to happen because the author ends several chapters in a row telling us so. I assume the next book with continue the Bad Things, but I’ll have to brace myself before continuing this series.


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