Into the Black was a book I bought blindly. I knew I liked ship-based military science fiction, so I thought I’d read it based purely on its reviews on Amazon. I was not disappointed. This is another story that was either self-published or published through Amazon’s online system.
The story follows the ship The Odyssey captained by former pilot Eric Weston. Captain Weston is the main character of the book, among a few other POV characters that are focused on throughout the story. He takes his ship on what begins as a rescue mission for a human bridge officer, but slowly transforms into a battle against instectoid aliens.
The technology is interesting, as is the setting. In this universe the Earth vessel finds that there are alien lifeforms who are human in all ways. However, these people hint at a past with the people of Earth that the Earthlings are unaware of. In addition, this book paints Earth as having a unique culture (or cultures) that causes a unique evolution of technologies that differ from the rest of humanity. I’ve always loved science fiction that explores the nature of civilizations or humanity. I also really liked the reactions of the alien humans to the military skills and strength of the Earthlings.
The technology gives The Odyssey the ability to travel instantaneously over light years. This is, of course, shocking to the alien humans, as is the advanced state of the Earthlings’ weapons systems. Otherwise, humanity lacks any technology on the scale of the aliens.
The main villains, as I mentioned, are an insectoid species that bear similarities to ants. Their ships are huge carriers and seem to give the alien humans problems, but the Earthlings seem capable of fending for themselves. They come to the aid of a bridge officer who was left adrift in space, which sets off the entire adventure.
This is not a perfect book, however. Oftentimes we would see the ship in combat and the Captain planning some heroic maneuver only to shift focus and see what a single pilot is doing flying around outside the ship, or we track an engineer through rescuing a person in her section of the ship. It threw off the pacing and seemed to exist for no reason except for a diversity in viewpoints.
In addition, two complete characters were developed and their relationships hinted at without any kind of closure by the end of the book. The characters were the weakest element in the story. It would have been better to keep perspective with simply the Captain and Milla, the alien bridge officer.
Another problem would be the pacing. The story goes from rescuing one alien to visiting two other planets. However, with instant travel they could have easily traveled home to Earth to communicate the situation and return to their mission with minor delays. The Captain waves off this suggestion in the book and it’s poorly explained in story. It was a glaring problem for me, but not enough to ruin the book.
I should mention I read the “Remastered Edition”, which corrected most of the typos and grammatical issues that apparently plagued the original. I can understand how those problems would taint an otherwise enjoyable read, but in my case the book was mostly devoid of any major issues.
Despite these criticisms, I would say this book was definitely one of my favorites in recent memory. If you liked either David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series or Jack Cambell’s “Lost Fleet” series, I would recommend this book for you.