Deep in the far-flung stretches of the universe, The Storytellers reside. Collectors of the tales of the many worlds, a presentation is made of the story about the human colony of Xavier, and one man who comes to expose his home’s disquieting secrets. With the discovery of the near-infinitely adaptable lifeforms known as xavirytes, the emergence of the secretive Conspirators, and a chance to return to Earth, the story of the human Devon’s rise from the UnderCity to intergalactic legend is about to be told.
Crossing Xavier is a science fiction romp that utilizes “Greek chorus” framing of The Storytellers to weave the story of a human trapped in poverty by a problematic space colony unknowingly on the brink of destruction. “Hugh Dudley” is the pen name used in collaboration between full-time writer Bear Kosik and his partner Ken Dudley, and the novel marks an intriguing and inventive beginning to a new series.
The read flows fairly well, though with quite a few tics along the way. The writing style of the book feels occasionally stiff, bogged down by technical language that comes off as unnatural at times. Complicating matters is a plot that, while engaging and inspired through-and-through, is delivered without the right kind of fine-tuning to pacing that can cause a reader to miss details, snowballing into momentary confusion here and there as more complex plot threads advance.
The same can also be said of characters, who are bit hard to pin down as separate entities to start. These sorts of problems are mostly ironed out as the book progresses and one dives deeper into the story, but it does have something of a rough beginning that isn’t entirely ironed out throughout the entire book.
Additionally, it’s hard to ignore the uninspiring cover the book sports, which gives very little clue as to the contents, and on first glance seems like a reprint of a classic pastoral novel, and not something as fanciful as you find here. It does the story a disservice, as this science fiction novel is wholly imaginative, despite its errors with pacing and some character development. There are so many unique ideas in the book that would make for great cover concepts, so this is a huge missed opportunity for such an innovative read.
This sort of lack of attention to detail is emblematic of some problems overall, which is a shame, as the story itself is engaging and vividly imagined. The Storytellers are an amazing idea worthy of a series, and the world-building of the book is memorable and outstanding. However, the book overall is in need of refinement to ensure that there is no added confusion with the authors’ interspersed commentary.
As a first step into the wide arena of novel publication, the team have made their mark, and this promises to be an exciting and imaginative series. A multi-dimensional and original space opera, Crossing Xavier is an enticing first novel for the Hugh Dudley co-op.
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