Yes, it’s time for another review! An Atmosphere of Angels, by HC Turk, available now for Kindle through Amazon. Links are, as ever they were, as ever they will be, at the bottom of the page.
Synopsis - A team of Earth explorers arrive on a planet, ostensibly to secure a load of Ether Ore (the new wonder-fuel). Things, however, do not go to plan. Two of their number, Parno and Kathlynn, whilst studying the local lifeforms end up caught in an alien spaceship. Pursued by a ghostly demon, they struggle with alien tech and their own feelings as they look for a way to escape and return to their crew alive and sane.
I’ll admit, it took me a couple of tries to get into this book. What seems initially dense, however, soon settles down, for a frequently surprising read.
Lets’s get the basics out of the way with. It’s well written. The lead characters, once seperated from the others of their crew, develop nicely. Dialogue flows well, reads true. From a sci-fi point of view, the technology is well described, and the future-speak is understandable without being gobbledygook (a frequent pitfall for sci-fi writers).
The story itself is an odd one. Not so much the basic plot (explorers go to alien planet, find themselves in jeopardy, get chased, try to escape), but the handling of it. At times, the story veers between wanting to be a comedy, a thriller, a chiller, a horror. Mostly, this is well handled, but occasionally it jars. Ditto the dialogue – some lines and phrases just seem at odds with everything else being said. It’s those moments which take the reader out of the total immersion which a story merits.
That said, let’s make something very clear. The writing is beautiful. From a very cynical point of view, it’s almost as if Turk has some lines which are so well written that he drops them in just to have them there. They’re not always necessary, and sometimes their impact can be lessened by being casually thrown in. But there are some absolute gems (and I don’t just mean reading it and thinking “Aw, that’s nice”. More kind of “Wow, that’s beautiful”) – the kind of writing which makes you realise how powerful and emotive writing can be.
And whilst the story handling is odd, it also works. Alien tech is… alien. There’s a slow discovery of what it is, how it works. Sometimes it drags a little. But it makes sense in the end. Speaking of which, the ending is also a little different. Turk gives my favourite kind of frustrating ending (is every question answered? No. Good! Use your own imagination!).
Sometimes, with a book like this, the frustration of doing a review can creep through. Because I liked the book, but when I’m reviewing I have to pause and take notes here and there. This is, ultimately, the kind of book I would enjoy just sitting down and getting wrapped up in. In my major sci-fi phase, I would have adored this book. Now that I’ve read it for a review, I hope I can go back to it one day, and enjoy it as I should.
On a side note, the cover definitely needs to change.
So, wrapping up. A beautifully written book, with engaging characters and a great story. Maybe a little too short or too long, but certainly a worthwhile addition to your library.
An Atmosphere of Angels is available to buy at:
“In the 23rd century, Earth has achieved interstellar travel. The greatest find is a planet with deposits of ether ore: a mineral required for journeying across the ether lanes. Since the ore is protected by an indigenous race, Terrans must barter for the material as supervised by Earth Nations United.
Parno Hadjara is the chief anthropologist of the staff that journeys to Kapnos 3. Kathlynn Shumard is the ENU supervisor. Soon after landing, Parno and Kathlynn approach the indigenes. Though the two are adversaries, they are drawn to one another.
The indigenes soon begin a mass ritual filled with sex, violence, and voodoo. The rite reveals the location of an abandoned space vessel surpassing Earth technology. The indigenes offer the Terrans a bargain: Remove this vessel from our land, and the ether ore is yours.
The entry to the ship will open briefly. Parno rushes to the site and enters, followed by Kathlynn, and the entry closes. The Terrans are trapped in a huge ship whose crew was murdered. The one alien remaining is a ghost who can only achieve peace by killing Parno and Kathlynn.
In order to escape, the Terrans must learn the workings of the ship. The ghost tries to kill them via spontaneous combustion, offworld narcotics, drowning in alien viscera, high-tech disintegration, and common beatings. Though severely injured, Parno and Kathlynn are healed by the ship.
When the entire ship begins disintegrating, Parno and Kathlynn are forced to face the ghost. If they succeed, the ether ore is theirs. If they fail, they and the ghost will achieve unending peace.”