Once upon a time in 2020, I made the fateful step of deciding to post a “I will buy and review a book or two from the selection y’all pitch at me” on Twitter. Along with A Choice for Essence, I chose this book.
Steel Reign: The Flight of the Starship Concord
Author: Braxton A. Cosby
Publication Year: 2020
One big reason I chose this book is the genre: sci-fi seems to be a bit less common than fantasy among indie books. Beyond that, the blurb on Amazon hints to epic space adventure in a wide world – it seems up my alley at first glance!
I’m quite torn about this book. As an admission, the genre was a parody of sci-fi action, not a serious take. I didn’t expect that from the blurb or most reviews, and I probably wouldn’t have started it if I’d known. So, that caveat out of the way let’s start with the things I liked.
It did pull through with the basic promise of action adventure. Reign – or Cassius, at times – was a hardcore spy who could pull off crazy stunts if he paid for it in joint pain later. His drive was a little difficult to drill down to, but his objective was clear. If you like action comedy like Austin Powers or Tropic Thunder, this is in your wheelhouse.
The grammar/basic structure was (aside from the experimental, weird numbers that were explained in the preface) decent. Some typos, word repetition, and sentence structure issues were present but were not more jarring than the weird decision regarding numbers (“no one” was “no 1”). The thing I liked best was the descriptions of the future tech and how it worked in-universe. Some of his chemistry and processing knowledge were wonky, but those subjects I’m less expert in seemed fine. The implants, especially, interested me because they weren’t better than natural – just different.
All the elements of a plot were there. The first chapter was very confusing, but it didn’t take long after to get set up and set off on the mission. The steps to the end were clear, and I liked knowing what we were supposed to root for.
But… man… the comedy. It was exactly the kind of comedy I just don’t get, because I had that feeling it should make me laugh. It was so intensely over the top that it had to be intended as funny, but I have a hard time with absurdist or exaggerating humor.
The other primary issue I had with the humor leaked into issues of characters. The intense use of male gaze (wherein the ladies were always described “boobs first”) and sexual jokes were tiresome to me. I suspect the first person narrator’s obsession with judging and gauging women solely by looks – even though the character claims he doesn’t – was meant as parody, but I honestly couldn’t be sure.
Part of what makes me suspicious that the male gaze and objectification were unintended was the poor representation of women. Every single woman was described as having squeezable or large tits, judged for their sexual potential (even the main’s sister!), and never really had a major part in the plot except as love objects or damsels. There was nothing to prove the narrator was delusional or wrong – so the parody angle might not even be good enough to make up for the poorly built female characters. The book passed neither Bechdel nor Mako Mori tests.
So, in the end, I liked the basic ideas of the book, but it had some major issues (that, admittedly, may be 100% in my head). Because of this, I decided that bad and good weighed each other out.
3/5 Discoball Snowcones
The plot was fairly straightforward, which I liked. You knew they had to steal the Concord in order to rescue Reign’s sister, Olia, from slavery. You knew they had to sneak into the Eclipse to find her. The action sequences made sense, and in that manner the book was fine.
I saw the twist – that Giff, the nerdy handler, had betrayed Reign – from pretty much Giff’s appearance in chapter two. He offered “too good to be true” for pretty cheap, so I expected it. However, that also meant the betrayal was set up, so I was fine with the twist. I’d much rather expect a twist than read a twist that comes out of nowhere.
The ending may have set up for additional entries in the series, but it could equally end where it is. Reign got the girl, saved his sister, and gained once and for all the loyalties of his crew (Giff and Stink).
Stick around for Our Dried Souls, a sci fi indie book!