This is not an impartial review. David is my friend, and we’re writing together – a situation I got into because I love his work. I loved Space Train, it’s quite possibly my favourite book of his I’ve read so far.
I have read a modest amount of sci-fi along the way – I’m not an expert in the genre, but I’ve done enough of it to have opinions. This is character driven sci-fi, with the science at a level that seems plausible to a non-expert (me) and doesn’t weigh the book down. I seldom enjoy novels where the ‘hard’ science dominates the story. I’m much more interested in concepts, and this is a book with plenty of those.
What David has done here primarily is to use a futuristic setting in order to talk about tyranny, colonialism, capitalism and the violence that all creates. The Space Train itself carries people fleeing a tyrannical culture, and the story revolves around their experiences as said tyrannical culture goes after them. The cast are a mix of humans and really interesting aliens, and the whole thing has a bit of a frontiers/cowboy vibe to it as well.
The story is driven by both grief and friendship. Many of the characters have endured loss and trauma in a war that happened before the book starts. There’s a lot in here about how people can support each other through that. The action is dominated by people trying to protect and take care of each other. The plot is powered to a large degree by a cast intent on building community, and there’s a large cast, reflecting that communal feeling rather than focusing entirely on one or two heroes. Different kinds of courage, loyalty and values are explored. There’s also a villainous villain who, had there been a movie version twenty years ago, would have been played by Gary Oldman, or perhaps Alan Rickman.
One of the things that really stood out for me was the way PTSD is dealt with in the story. One of the characters is dealing with a scenario that is so close to a previous horror they lived though, that they are repeatedly triggered. David does a superb job of expressing what happens during that kind of triggering, and how trauma often continues to be very present in a person’s life. As a reader, you can’t tell whether events are taking a turn for the worst or if you’re caught up in a flashback – which is also how that kind of triggering works for the person experiencing it. In terms of PTSD representation, this is one of the most powerful depictions I’ve ever read.
I loved it. If you think space socialism with a high paced plot is for you, then I heartily recommend you check it out.
More on the Publisher’s website – https://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/?ref=spacetrain