5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Captain Vincent Chen’s life is a simple one. He commands a crew of none, alone with his ship, his Bible and his own haunted memories. His solitary days are spent tracking and maintaining the MarkTel corporation’s fleet of interstellar comm ferries as they map new worlds for the Realm of Five. Loneliness aside, he’s content with his vocation.
It all changes with the sudden loss of a comm ferry in the Sylvanak Star system. The incident is sufficiently unusual for Chen to personally investigate. His search leads him to the system’s single planet, home to a frontier colony of settlers who may not be all that they seem. Their dark secret makes this particular settlement far easier to enter than to leave – and the only hope could lie in an alliance with his very worst enemies…
Severed Signals can be described as a “prison break” scenario within a far future space opera setting. The book functions as a stand-alone novella, but actually begins a spin-off series of the Face of the Deep universe – something I myself realized only after recognizing several of the names and references. These are presented in a way that makes knowledge of the larger series unnecessary yet piques the reader’s interest to explore it.
Severed Signals can be described as a “prison Break” scenario within a far future space opera setting.
The story immerses the reader from the very beginning, using a first-person narrative to describe a fictional world with a complete history and detailed technology governed by rational, consistent rules. Using the protagonist’s perspective, the author communicates volumes of information while avoiding unnecessary or irrelevant details. This produces a taut, fast-moving narrative with fluid pacing and compelling dialogue.
One of the most interesting parts of the book to me was the protagonist himself. A common trope of much Christian Fiction is to begin with an unbelieving protagonist who ends the story as a Christian. Severed Signals, however, begins with a multi-dimensional protagonist who is already a Christian but still possesses a core weakness and need (moving on from the persecution of his family and forgiving the perpetrators). Captain Chen’s first-person perspective lent the narrative and dialogue an enjoyably hard-boiled flavor – we see things through the eyes of a cynical recluse who nonetheless maintains a core of Christian beliefs. Chen’s “Asian” background (as well as that of several other major characters) makes him even more interesting.
Another thing that stands out is that this story takes place after rather than during a battle for freedom. The war has been won, but the new order is far from perfect. This to me was an impressively mature approach to storytelling – it’s easy to forget that every victory still leaves unpleasant realities in its aftermath.
Another thing that stands out is that this story takes place after rather than during a battle for freedom.
This sets the stage for a powerful, biblically-derived theme that makes the book’s moral dilemma more complex than the standard trope of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. When faced with oppression, what really matters – ending the oppression or punishing the oppressors? Vengeful temptation can easily turn the victims of yesterday into the oppressors of tomorrow – even when those same victims are persecuted Christians. This is an uncomfortable fact but a fact, nonetheless, and Severed Signals mirrors real history in portraying it. The hero’s very survival ultimately hinges upon his capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation.
All in all, I give Severed Signals a well-deserved five stars. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys imaginative space opera as well as fast-paced action seamlessly interwoven with a thought -provoking biblical message. I look forward to exploring more of this author’s universe.
Violence: Surprisingly mild. This is an action-oriented story with a fair amount of combat and injury, but most of the weapons used are not even lethal.
Genre: Christian Science Fiction (Space Opera)
Age recommendation: 10 and up.
Reviewed by A.K. Preston
A.K. Preston is the author of The Gevaudan Project, and has published short stories in The Unseen Anthology and The Untold Podcast (to be released sometime this year). You can find him at his website, AKPreston.com. In his spare time, he likes to read classic literature, history, and speculative fiction of all types.