eBook review copy; 400 pages
Binary System by Eric Brown is a recommended science fiction novel with a YA vibe.
Delia Kemp manages to survive the explosion of the starship she was on by getting into an escape pod on the advice from her Imp, a computer implant in her brain. With only her Imp for advice and company she makes her way to the world of Valinda where the winters are nine years long following one year of a scorching hot summer. Fortunately for her, it is nearing the end of winter and soon the year of summer will begin. She finds herself crash landing when her pod is hit by some laser or weapon. She is stranded on the ice-world and taken hostage by the Skelt, a cruel race of giant mantis/insect beings who move at incredible fast speeds. After her Imp deciphers the language of the Skelt, she discovers that they are relative newcomers to the planet too. Their race arrived thousands of years ago and they have enslaved and dominated the other two sentient races on the planet while the Skelt have digressed into a more primitive society.
The blue chimpanzee-like aliens are the Fahrans. Their people are captured and made to work for the Skelt. The giant crab/spider-like aliens are called the Vo. The Skelt use them as beasts of burden and often sacrifice them. Delia makes an ally of a Fahran, Mahn, who helps her escape from the Skelt. They later save and befriend a Vo. The three travel together trying to avoid the Skelt, heading for what looks like another downed escape pod that will hopefully contain other survivors from her starship.
This is mainly a story of Delia's extraordinary escapes and recaptures, as aided by her Imp, which has some neato, quite coincidental features tailor made for her to communicate with, survive and outwit an alien race while befriending other races and trying to make her way to the valley of Mahkanda.
Now, I'm recommending Binary System because there are plenty of readers who will enjoy the escapism and won't care one iota about any of the things that annoyed me. The ending makes up for much of the slow start and a reader can chose to ignore many of my gripes. The writing is technically excellent, descriptive and fluid. The characters jump from one adventure/escape to another while encountering all sorts of new, interesting settings and creatures. There are battles and celebrations. The good guys are all good and the Skelt are all bad. It is like a classic sci-fi/western plot.
However, there were many cons for me, including the plot, simplistic world building, aliens, characters, and the Imp. I almost stopped reading after several escapes, etc. when the alien Vo was giving Delia and Mahn a ride, and said in reply to her questioning their weight that they were as light as a fly on its back. Hello... this is an alien race and world and there are no flies here. Why on earth would an alien say that? Well, actually the aliens, other than descriptions, aren't all that alien-sounding. I'm betting the Imp humanized them for us and gave them personalities we could relate to.
The Imp is the real hero here. The Imp is the one thing that keeps Delia alive. Delia is supposed to be a doctor, but in reality, mentally, she is just in the Imps way. I'm sure if the Imp could experience human emotions, it would be just as annoyed as I was over her swooning over Tim in the beginning. It must be hard to be an Imp in an adult who acts like a teen. Perhaps the whole character of Delia could have been destroyed with the starship but the imp survives. It could set a new directive, finding a way to be mobile, making its way to a planet, communicating with the inhabitants, and escaping the bad guys.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Solaris.