Book Review: Constitution
5th Oct, 2015
Nick Webb's new sci-fi thriller, despite covering no new ground, managed to keep me turning the pages until the end. Actually, that's about as euphemistic as saying Rakudai Kishi and Asterisk Wars cover no new ground. Constitution can't even be called a rip-off. The story chronicles a complacent interstellar human civilization which, after barely defeating unknown space invaders two generations previously, has decided it no longer needs defence spending, and the stodgy old starship captain who prophetically anticipates the enemy's return, even as his ship is being decommissioned and turned into a museum. Only he, his drunk Ex-O, and the rag-tag crew of the Battlestar Galactica stand between humanity and... Oh, wait...
Yes, Constitution reads exactly like BSG fan fiction, only replace Cylons with space goo and lose the spunky female deck chief. Except, you know, not bad like that makes it sound. Constitution, for all its lack of originality at the outset, is a highly-enjoyable read. After all, I liked BSG. And, despite its deceptive 362-page length, it's also a very short one. I can see myself finishing it in one sitting if I ever had a six-hour block of time in which I didn't need to be running around doing things. It even managed to surprise me at the end, so I might even check out the sequels I assume there will be based on the impossible-to-miss subtitle.
What I liked:
The plot of Constitution almost takes place in real-time as the alien fleet invades the Sol system. Definitely a recipe for success right there. The battles are exciting and the human drama isn't ruined by schizophrenia like the Seafort Saga, but is easily the most clichè part of Webb's writing. The one point where this broke down was where Captain Adama, I mean, Captain Granger has to order his men to sacrifice themselves in order to protect the ship for which the book is named. I was surprised when his men just went along with it: shedding only the smallest of man-tears in the process. The clichè thing to do would have been to have the spunky, naivè midshipman stand up to him, only to have his idealism shot down faster than a passenger plane flying over eastern Europe, but no such character exists in the strangely-pragmatic world of Constitution. Despite its being a clichè, I found myself missing that particular interaction. Maybe originality is overrated...
What I didn't:
I could complain about the fact that Webb blatantly stole the premise of a popular and widely-known sci-fi series, but I think I've beaten that horse dead already. What bothered me the most throughout the book, actually, was the sort of gelatinous, semi-solidity of the science in Webb's universe. Maybe I've been ruined by David Weber books, but it bothers me when, in the course of one's world-building, one chooses to make only a half-hearted effort at incorporating "hard" science. Webb knows the vocabulary of good hard sci-fi: the speeds and internal forces are covered in relative detail, but every so often he feels the need to wave the magic wand of long, complicated-sounding phrases like "quantum entanglement" or generic, fluff terms like "gravity plates" without considering the implication of their existence in the larger context of his world building. He also fails to give even adequate physical descriptions of the ships, fighter craft, and other elements of his universe, which inevitably leaves me to fill these details in in my head with Battlestars, Vipers, and Raptors. Maybe this is part of the reason I can't shake the likeness to BSG, even by the end of the book.
A decent page-turner for a rainy day, especially since it's only $2.00 on Kindle.