Following on the heels of the first book in the epic space opera Ephialtes, author Gavin E. Parker brings readers a collection of shorts from his carefully crafted world, with the intention of bridging the first and second installments of the trilogy. The second installment of the epic is planned for a fall release in 2017.
The Ephialtes universe is a rich tapestry, with the first book in the series based around the end of World War IV in 2241, where the huge and powerful air warship Ephialtes is refitted for interplanetary space travel by the dominant ruling forces of the USAN (United States and Nations), and Mars and its inhabitants readies itself for the ship’s arrival.
In the book of shorts, previously released as singles, author Parker concentrates on one character’s viewpoint at a time. In the story, for example, “Why Am I So Clever?” readers catch up with Dr. Daniel Kostovich, head of R&D at Venkdt Mars Corp and Special Advisor to the MSS, as he tries to gauge the military crisis brewing and how he will deal with the supplies and vital equipment. In “A Cold Wind Blows,” Kimberly Gooding languishes in Mars, dreaming of a trip to Earth, and landing a job, until a paranormal event challenges her to readdress her thoughts about everything.
Parker’s writing is as highly political and war-ready as space wars fans would expect, as well as following its genre’s classic touches with a lot of space tech details that sci-fi readers will enjoy. In the vein of writing such as World War Z, the book builds a bigger construct by drawing small portraits in pockets of the universe created, and this enables readers to sympathize with each protagonist in a much deeper way than with the usual “cast of thousands” style space epic.
The collection would have been even more successful if each story had been written in first-person such as the first story, maybe the strongest of the collection, “See The Worlds.” It’s also a little out of convention that Parker has chapters within his shorts, which maybe would have flowed better without being split up, given their current form as part of a collection of different protagonists.
These are really just minor carps, and the book is well-written with attention to editing, style, and detail that makes this an enjoyable companion following on from the first book in the trilogy. Crucially, it’s also not necessary to have read the first installment, as the stories are interesting enough on their own for any reader to then go back and buy and enjoy the first book, perhaps to an even greater degree.
Parker clearly has a very intimate knowledge of his creations, and has furnished all possible elements of this world thoroughly and with passion. There is something here to entice most any science fiction reader, as there are some elements of action sci-fi writing that Michael Crichton and Andy Weir readers will soak up, and the Earth/Mars cultural intricacies that are similar to our own is exciting to explore.
All told, The Ephialtes Shorts Collection is a highly interesting and entertaining addition to the Ephialtes universe. It’s something of a lesson for other indie writers in world-building, and an incentive for readers to dive deeper into Parker’s world.
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