Solar System Blues by Andrew J. Patrick is an exhilarating read. As Burton and his teenage assistant hurtle through space in search of a habitable planet, the reader is taken along for the ride. The opening pages do not offer many answers or reasons as to why Burton is in space. In fact, the beginning is so ambiguous that some readers may wonder why they should continue with the story. But that’s the point to the beginning. The author is using this vagueness to draw you into the story and to make you ask: what and why. And to get the reader more invested in the story and to care about Burton.
A brief synopsis: Burton has runaway with a stolen spaceship. He’s a fugitive and if anyone is still alive on Earth they may be hunting for him. However, Burton has been away for so long he’s not sure if there are survivors back home. What drive’s Burton to continue if the future seems so bleak. He wants to find a new planet for the human race. Burton has the ability, including genetic material, to start the human race all over again. In addition, he has a teenage assistant who might possibly be his daughter. The vagueness of the teenager adds to the mystery. Not only is this story science fiction, but it’s also a thriller.
As Burton and his assistant travel further and further into space the story slowly unfolds. It all starts to make sense. In the meantime, Burton has music from decades ago to keep him company since it’s lonely in space. Very lonely. Of course Burton also has the ship’s computer to talk to, but have you tried to have a philosophical conversation with a computer? It’s not easy.
There is much to like about this story. Burton is an interesting character: witty, flawed, loving, determined, and obsessed. The teenager is your typical teenager. She wants to rebel but has no friends to rebel with. That doesn’t stop her from doing what she can do to antagonize the one adult in her world. Even in space there’s no controlling teenage hormones.
The world building is subtle and the author avoids too much information dumping on the whole. This book is a quick read and is only 140 pages. While the action and mystery come at the reader fast, after you get past the first few pages, it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
There are times when I think it would behoove the author to spend more time explaining the back story. Most of it is told in flashbacks and while the basics of what and why are explained, the entire picture was not crystal clear. Some readers may want to know more as to why one man thinks he can save the entire human race. The political intrigue and espionage are hazy and that may be the author’s intention. History has shown over the centuries that reasons are not always fully formed even if zealots believe in them wholeheartedly.
On the whole I think many people would enjoy Solar System Blues. It’s quick, easy, and entertaining. And the ending might surprise a few. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.