Phoenix Earth, Season 1, by 7-11 Press
“After the final cataclysm claimed Earth, and seeding failed on Mars, the surviving humans had only one choice—seek out a new planet or die. Eventually, the surviving humans discovered Malakar, a small planet millions of light years away. In time, the two races merged, creating a new breed called Maluan. However, racism soon spread throughout the planet and the human and Maluans faced total extinction by evil Malakarans known as Creks. In a politically charged move to sweep the planet clean of all non-purebloods, the descendants of the human race are forced off Malakar to relocate to a planet dubbed X67 by Malakaran authorities. What unfolds is a maniacal scheme to destroy the Maluans and humans before they reach their new home, forcing them to leap at the speed of thought to a dead planet no one has seen in more than five hundred years: Earth.
Phoenix Earth follows the lives of an eclectic group as they bond together to stay alive and begin anew as they discover new alien races and struggle to help Earth rise from the ashes”
I was invited to review Phoenix Earth, Season 1 by its authors/creators and I am grateful to them for the opportunity.
I was certainly intrigued at the outset by their proposed concept of an episodic approach to the story telling, akin to a season of sci-fi on TV. They also have the strap line on their website that reading one of their tales is like watching a movie in terms of time commitment, so I was keen to test this all out.
At its heart Phoenix Earth, Season 1 was an engaging tale about struggle, rebirth and rediscovery, with all of the excitement of new frontiers, new technology and space battle against aliens. So that was me happy. That being said it lacked a certain sophistication and was a little too predictable in places. It also dealt with certain things rather too conveniently and simplistically (for me at least). At the risk of spoilers I’ll just mention: that syringe; the journey to Phoenix Earth; and then that underwhelming “it is done” moment. Hopefully that’s jumbled and cryptic enough that you’ll get it all only once you’ve read it!
Now I am the first to accept some of my favourite sci-fi show episodes do similar things, in particular having everything in the balance as the clock ticks around to the last ten or five minutes of the episode, seemingly impossible to wrap up, and then? Well suddenly it is, all is well and the heroes all end up laughing over a meal or drink at the end. That’s all fine, and perhaps a symptom of the need to meet the philosophy of quick but exciting reads, but it did leave me a little bit ”what???” at the close of proceedings. As this was a novel I think they could have dealt with things slightly better than they did. Moreover, whilst I could see past these niggles because it was my kind of story, I anticipate some readers might not.
Other points that stuck with me: at the outset I did find the holocaust imagery a little too in my face, with express references too regular and a little clumsy. However, it’s fair to say it wasn’t gratuitous and was clearly relevant to the story line, and it also didn’t last for too long, with the approach soon becoming more nuanced, which was, I think, a far more effective way to make the point; I thought the structure of the initial chapters with flashbacks mixed in with ongoing action worked very well to maintain the momentum of the action whilst filling in back-story; and as to what happened when they got to Phoenix Earth, it was all very like the first few episodes of Stargate (Atlantis and SGU) – great stuff.
I found the characters almost universally likeable, but it was a shame there wasn’t much in the way of discord in the ranks which you could see might easily have been the case given the trauma suffered by the people crammed into the ships, and what you’d expect to be their innate self-preservation mechanism looking out for themselves and their families – that’s an episode all by itself. There were of course the really bad guys, but these had a little too much boo hiss about them. As for the key cast, there were a couple who were clearly meant to be stand out main players, but the whole ensemble tended to merge together a little too easily and some of the key characters were perhaps not as developed as they might be. This is likely a product of the scale of the tale being told though, as there would be lots of people playing their part, but then I return to the episode format issue. Even with BSG and the overall arc it had to fulfil, time was taken to give characters their time to breathe and develop, and in some cases even to die (oh and come back, sort of…).
Now I may have misunderstood the episode format they were aiming for, but at its core this struck me as not being that much different from any other chaptered book, or indeed other tales I have seen serialised as now seems to be increasingly common place (something not entirely unwelcome and a look back to how it used to work of course - Dickens can’t have been wrong). However, rather than what I expected to be a series of ‘episodes’ through which an arc or two ran, this was to my mind more of a complete tale with one chapter following on from the next in the traditional way. Now I should point out I make no criticism by pointing this out, as I found the story very entertaining, and but for the daily annoyance of work and of course the demands of two beautiful baby daughters I couldn’t put this down. Now of course text is an entirely different beast than produced for TV dramas, and dare I say it by and large a little more sophisticated. In fairness it was a very decent effort to produce something novel (ahem), but if we were to draw parallels with TV I could very easily see this as a decent two/three hour pilot for a show, with the episodes kicking in thereafter, rather than what I had initially assumed would be the format – but hey.
The bottom line is that I couldn’t really care less about the niggles and critical analysis as I had a great time reading it and it was beyond doubt a solid four stars for me – almost but not quite with an extra half. I enjoyed very much spending time with what was left of humanity and their Maluan progeny and I’m definitely going to look up season two and see how things develop, and maybe even end – last time I looked it was being touted as a second and final season. A big thumbs up from me, go buy it and give it a chance.
Get it on Amazon now.