Peter Cawdron’s Galactic Exploration contains four novellas: Serengeti, Trixie & Me, Savannah, and War. All of the stories are loosely connected and deal with the exploration of the Milky Way. Like Christopher Columbus, the intrepid explorers set out in three ships, of course they are space ships. Unlike Columbus and his crews, every crew member is a clone, or to be more exact, Homo sapiens replicas. Cawdron’s format reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. While Asimov’s short stories analyzed the limits and injustices robots had to contend with living among humans, Cawdron discusses some of the same issues in relation to clones sent off into space by humans.
The novellas are not directly related, but fit together and build upon the overall story, which is the exploration of space in search of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. The science in the stories is not glossed over. Don’t fret about the hard science though. His writing is easy to understand and doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence.
The novellas have the same characters, which holds the series together and makes it easier on the reader to keep track of what is going on. Anderson is the idealistic commander that people can’t help but like. Berry is the problem solver of the group who doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. Diana, a nurse, didn’t ever expect to go into space until a chance encounter with Anderson who convinced her to give up her life on earth. Trixie is an interesting character that isn’t completely explained. Her sudden appearance shocks the crew and causes many to question who or what she is.
My reaction to these novellas is quite mixed. At times, I couldn’t stop reading the stories. Cawdron’s dialogue made me feel like I was in the room with the characters. My favorite story was the third story when he reveals how and why the explorations began. The interaction between Diana and Anderson was comical and pure entertainment. Many new authors struggle with dialogue, however Cawdron avoided this pitfall.
However, I also found at times, Cawdron’s writing somewhat forced. Writing science fiction is not easy since the author has to successfully create a new world that is believable. This of course involves description and it can be tricky to master. Too little leaves the reader floundering since he or she can’t picture what is happening. Too much overwhelms. For the most part Cawdron had the right amount of description. But there were times when I felt bombarded with all that was going on in a scene and lost focus on the actual stories and characters.
For the most part, I really enjoyed the novellas. The stories and concepts are not new of course. People have been writing about space exploration for years. Cawdron, though, has brought forth a fresh voice. His style may not be perfected quite yet. There were minor grammatical errors in the edition that I read. Still, when I finished the stories I was glad that I had read them. More importantly, I’m excited that I had the opportunity to read Peter Cawdron early on in his career. I think he’s a writer that will grow and who will hone his craft. At least I hope so. I give Galactic Exploration 4 out of 5 stars.