Lacuna; Demons of the Void is the premiere volume in the Lacuna series of military science fiction from David Adams. The series follows the military career of a Chinese naval officer just before two thirds of Earth is glassed by a super advanced race of alien space police.
In many ways the story mirrors works like Robert Heinlein and David Weber. You see intergalactic war from the prospective of the soldiers fighting it. In this way it was not a terrible work. It did have it fair share of problems however.
The main issue for this novel was the overall believability. One or two hard to believe things can be over looked but too many issues can really hurt the reading experience.
For example our main character is a naval officer. Because all of the officers with combat experience are killed seconds before the book starts she raises through the ranks fairly quickly. Seems odd that every veteran was killed selectively but it is possible.
Then she turns down her boyfriend because he wants to help her career—but isn’t she already the commander of one-third of the Earth’s naval forces? What else is there?! Then again perhaps there are different rankings in the Chinese navy.
But all these sorts of plot holes are paled when the universe’s highest trained Earthling soldiers are outgunned and outsmarted by the alien forces. The aliens drill into the bridge, use the front door, and have a firefight with the captain. That is fine but how in the hell does she actually hold out against them for so long with a room full of navigation officers with service pistols?
Those problems aside the writing itself has several issues that permeate the entire work. During any given dialogue there will be a page between responses where we are given the background, reasoning, or general thoughts of a character before we know what is going on. It would have been much easier to simply have the dialogue and allow the reader to be shown the story rather than being told the story.
It is like this from the very start:
“Senior Lieutenant Melissa Liao of the People’s Liberation Army awoke face down in the dark, pinned under the debris of the destroyed building, concrete dust swirling all around her.”
Seriously? This is just page one sentence one. A single sentence that truthfully sets the tone for the entire book; overwritten, unnecessary, and flatly explained.
The entire text felt forced and stiff from the amount of exposition. For instance the main character’s name is Melissa or Liao. The two are used interchangeably as her first name. It so happens however that she had a sister who died before she was born and was named after her. After finding this out she immediately changes her name to Melissa but still gets called Liao… All of this is explained in exposition point blank to the reader between dialogues.
This can all be overlooked though if the story is entertaining but it isn’t. It has Heinleinain elements like the space police who are judging Earth to be too dangerous (like ‘Have Space Suit Will Travel’) and the destruction of Earth (like ‘Star Ship Troopers’) but falls short with plot holes and McGuffins.
For reason unknown to the reader the alien race did not finish off Earth when it destroyed two-thirds of its population. It in fact allowed them to live, create three massive spacefaring battleships, and take off to wreak their revenge. There is no struggle—things just work out for our heroes. There is no growth—the characters feel just as stiff at the start as they do in the end.
To the book’s credit there are still interesting characters, concepts, and scenes. Such as the aliens are not one political/religious party. They have factions and subgroups like anyone else. The ‘Reactionless Drive’ is a pretty cool idea. The battles did have some thought and planning put into them.
Not only that, but the writer seems to actually be a pretty standup guy. In fact he wrote back to some of the reviewers on Amazon thanking them for their military service, their reviews, and their pointers. This sort of good attitude can go a long ways with a fan base (which he is steadily building). It also means a lot for a writer to take the opinions of others and put it back into their writing.
Perhaps this first shot by Adams will get revisions and rewrites or maybe he will make his later editions more streamlined. Either way there is enough of a spark here that he could become a good writer later or in his other works. This one just wasn’t great.
I give Lacuna; Demons of the Void two out of five dancing hamsters—one rodent for concept and another for potential. Fingers crossed for a better tomorrow.