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30 April 2012 @ 11:43 pm
The Trilisk Ruins by Michael McCloskey  
Series: Parker Interstellar Travels
Publisher: self published, 2011
Genre: Science fiction
Sub-genre: Alien encounter
Rating: 2 1/2 pint of blood

Well, this is actually a cover where the artwork sucked me in. Glowy things! Floaty things! Most importantly, there's a male and female character who seem to be on even ground. They more or less have the same stance happening, and while he might have the big honking gun, the floaty things seem to be mostly surrounding her. Gender equality in cover art? Yes, please!

How'd I wind up with this one? Sort of a roundabout story, actually. I saw pretty pretty artwork with a powerful looking woman in a sci-fi setting in an ad and clicked on it. The ad led me to a book, and I found out it was about space archaeologists! Dude, archaeologists. In space. That's pretty awesome, and something that doesn't get done very often. It was also less than a dollar, so I clicked on the buy button and added it to my collection.

I hadn't gotten very far into the book, though, when I made a comment on goodreads about how I wasn't sure if I'd ultimately review it or not. I'd come across a number of amateur errors, and I'm not keen on writing reviews that basically sum up to "well, it was ok, but it needed a professional editor." McClonskey saw my comment, realized I'd managed to get ahold of an earlier version of the book, before he'd had it properly edited, and offered me a shiny new copy. Well, how could I say no to an offer like that? Did I mention the book is about space archaeologists?

All her life, Telisa has trained to study alien artifacts, and she's become an expert on the Trilisks, an extremely advanced but extinct species. Unfortunately for her, the government is restricting access to alien artifacts and ruins, and in spite of her fascination with the Trilisks, she disagrees enough with the government policies she can't bring herself to work for them.

When a group of smugglers contacts her, Telisa is both wary and delighted. They're planning an expedition to previously unexplored Trilisk ruins, and although the risks are high, she can't resist the opportunity to come along if it means she can study some artifacts.

The trip doesn't go exactly as planned, though, and soon Telisa and the rest of the team find themselves struggling to survive on an alien planet. Trapped in a hostile environment and chased by the United Nations Space Force for their illegal activities, she may not make it out of the ruins in one piece.

I've gotta tell you guys, I nearly didn't make it past the first page. Chapter one, paragraph one: Telisa checking herself out in a mirror and describing herself to the reader in some detail. I sighed and nearly put it down right there, but talked myself into continuing because this was a book about space archaeologists. I'm happy to report it did get better from there, which I suppose says something about first impressions, but since that's not really what we're here to dissect, we'll skip over that and get into the meat of the book.

The truth of the matter is that this is almost a really good book. If it were made into a blockbuster movie, it would probably be a lot of fun to watch, but a book doesn't get special effects and buttery popcorn. There's a lot of tell in here, and not nearly enough show. I don't need every book to include an epic romantic subplot, but when I read a line like "It seemed like they never had time to be alone, ever since things had started going wrong. How many times had she daydreamed of a moment like this since she met Magnus?", my reaction shouldn't be "wait, what?" Telling me after the fact that she's been thinking sexy things about a dude doesn't count as building tension.

It's not just the relationships that suffer from too much tell, though. Much later in the book, Telisa has a conversation wherein she wonders nervously to herself if she should mention to the other person she suspects they were behind some awful things that happened earlier. These suspicions are firm enough in her head at this point she's ready to have a conversation about it, but it was neither mentioned or foreshadowed beforehand, so the line is just dropped in awkwardly, telling me what I'm supposed to think instead of gently leading me there and allowing me to experience things along with the characters.

I did enjoy the conflict between the smugglers and the big government, and the little bits about the aliens we hear is interesting, although considering they're stuck in an alien world, we don't really hear much. Granted, there's a second book in the works (the abrupt ending will attest to that), and it's possible more of the aliens will be explored there.

The Trilisk Ruins is available in paperback or as a 0.99$ e-book through the kindle store or Smashwords. My copy was generously provided by the author.
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