4 out of 5 stars.
Author Dean M. Cole states right on the cover that this is book one in a series, and indeed the story contained therein does set the stage for what promises to be a compelling extended story. That said, Solitude: Dimension Space Book One could very well stand on its own as a single installment post-apocalyptic thriller. Of course we’re left wondering what caused the apocalypse, and where the survivors will go from here, but the events of the first book are brought to a tidy, satisfying conclusion.
And what a ride this first book is! The question of what caused the apocalypse, and why, is briefly probed but mostly set aside for the time being while the characters work out their more immediate dilemma. There are only two survivors left: Vaughn, a sort of washed-up combat helicopter pilot, on Earth’s surface, and Angela, an unlikely survivor stranded alone on the International Space Station. They eventually become aware of each others’ existence, initiate communications, and work to rescue Angela from orbit.
Vaughn is a frustrating character. He is presented as the hero but he has some flaws that sometimes make you want to reach through the page and slap some sense into him. Even though he embarks on what would seem an impossible quest–to travel to the ISS and return with Angela safely to the surface, its not the borderline-believable aspects of these tasks that nearly do him in–its his own stupidity, haste and stubbornness. But despite a series of self-imposed setbacks, he manages to stumble through the story.
Dean M. Cole is a helicopter pilot, and the knowledge and jargon of that profession come through the narrative. While I was reading it I was wondering if other readers might find it a bit wonky in that regard (I didn’t). But there were a couple of minor issues about the writing that did bug me a little. The first of these came early in the story, with some fairly steady fat-shaming of the main character, both self-inflicted and also by his partner. Another was the repetitive use of certain phrases that are unique enough that recurring use of them becomes a bit annoying. I’m not sure how many times the term “a pregnant pause” was used, but it seemed excessive.
The characters were well developed and ably portrayed. But it did sometimes feel a bit awkward when the author was dealing with romantic interactions between them (as well as their private thoughts regarding intimacy toward the other). I suppose that’s fine though, as I can’t really say how one would act if he or she were the last of their gender, and there was only one left of the opposite. I suppose it might seem a little awkward.
Solitude is an interesting combination of apocalyptic and near-future sci-fi. I enjoyed exploring Dean M. Cole’s version of a suddenly people-less world, where planes, trains and automobiles are instantly left pilot-less, and how that can lead to mass destruction even in the absence of roaming hordes of survivors, zombies or monsters. With regards to the science, I’m putting my faith in the author that the technologies he employs come with at least a theoretical grain of truth rather than created out of whole cloth. The author’s apparent knowledge of other, real-world technologies such as the workings of NASA and the ISS, was impressive and seemed well-researched.
I found this book interesting and entertaining. There are hints that the next installments will delve further into science theory, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to seeing how these characters grow and cope with both the world around them and the relationship between them. Mr. Cole has skillfully hooked me into anticipation of the continuation of the series.
Lastly, a word about the audio performance. If you’ve read my review from my first foray into audiobooks, you know that I came away from it a bit underwhelmed on the whole concept. But Solitude’s narrators, R.C. Bray and Julia Whelan, restored my faith in the format. Their performances were spot-on, and didn’t distract from my enjoyment of the story. I only listened to a portion of the book in audio, as I still prefer flipping through the pages on my Kindle. But I’ll be more receptive, in the future, to the idea of listening rather than reading, when the opportunity comes up such as long drives.
If you are an indie or self-published author and are interested in having me read and review your book, drop me a note with a link to your eBook listing on Amazon. If it looks interesting, I may add it to my “to read” list. I typically post my reviews to Amazon and Goodreads. I do not ask for free copies in exchange for a review. If it looks like something I might enjoy, I will gladly pay for it myself.