By Raven Oak
Author’s website: http://www.ravenoak.net/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Scott
Get ready for the thrill of a vacation gone wrong. Steel yourselves for intrigue, suspense, and high action. Enjoy the ride through space because you’re extinct. That’s right. Earth has been destroyed and the what little remains of the human race is feared and shunned as bringers of war by their mutated offspring and alien races. The novella Class-M Exile by Raven Oak hurls you thousands of years into the future and hits you at the core of your being. It’s a fresh look at science fiction in a charming “hillbilly” fashion.
It was the dialogue between the characters that struck me first. A southern drawling Tresik , named Eerl, narrates in almost an ironic union of slow paced speech, with a high tension tale. When he stumbles across Mel, a human, and subsequently has to save her, it brings on delightful interplay in dialectal terms. While gritty, the interplay between Mel, who knows scraps of her history but speaks perfect “common,” and Eerl who knows of humans through studies in books, shines with a levity rarely graced by other authors.
The dialogue only packs a wallop as in this primarily plot driven book. Visiting no less than three worlds, with adventures on every one, Raven Oak brings a new flair to the novella format, making the length of the word count seem longer than it actually is; a testament to Oak’s skill at short fiction writing. The plot has as much intrigue, suspense and action befitting a much larger work. Although rather linear and reactive to start out with, the book surprises the reader with ingenious plot twists, and a remarkable ending. What would take other authors a book to tell, Oak manages to hit the word count of the novella with a resounding finish.
The main characters are surprisingly three-dimensional, each with their own nuances and quirks. The sideline characters dot the scenes and are memorable for the actions they perform, rather than the words they speak. Action and a hazardous adventure drive the races, species, and lifeforms that populate the book. The omnipresent abhorrence of humans and the “hickish” voice of Eerl, the narrator, keep the intensity high throughout the course of the tale, and gritty and down to earth at the same time.
The exotic underdrawings of the different worlds “visited,” add to the gritty effect. As Star Wars fans will recognize, never has there been a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. The worlds are still recovering from a galactic war and this plagues the vistas at every turn of the page. Earth has presumably been destroyed, humanity scarce, and most confined to slavery or left, on their own, in a prejudiced arena. The worlds reflect the action: the claustrophobic ship and busy tourist resort and an angry mob, a desert world with a library of 700 year old books, and a tranquil utopia with hidden secrets; all reflect the totality of the action surrounding them.
Class-M Exile is a fantastic read for readers of all genres, not just science fiction. Yes, it has starships, and alien species, but the manner in which it’s told will pull any discerning reader in. The events, as in any good speculative fiction, are a reflection of social mores we hold today, examined under new light. I’d highly recommend this novella to anyone; the twists and turns it takes will draw you in and wanting for more. It’s a treat.