John Taloni asked me to read his story "Crisis on Stardust Station". It is about intelligent and telepathic cats that live in a space station and help humans repair it after a freak solar flare. I will examine plot, characters and polish before assigning a grade.
The plot starts off with world building and character introduction during a peaceful time. I find this necessary to set the tone of the story. It's like something written by Vulcans; all serious and logical. At many times someone says something along the lines of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one." Overall, it's interesting to see the tripartite world of the space station: human astronauts, Civilized Cats and Free Cats.
I would classify the rest of the plot in two arcs: Repair and Prepare. The Repair Arc follows the space station's attempt to fix the damage done to the station by the solar flare and the Prepare Arc follows their attempts to shield themselves against the next solar flare. The primary work is done by the Civilized Cats and Free Cats with the three humans providing knowledge of the station and the necessary work to be done.
Aside from the intelligent and telepathic cats thing, it is a hard space science fiction work. I will freely admit that I don't understand how space stations and solar collector satellites function so my confusion at the events is likely due to my own ignorance. If Mr.Taloni were just making stuff, I wouldn't be able to tell. However, it sounds plausible enough. Nothing techno babble or P particles.
On the other side of the coin, it's not completely science-y. There's other stuff too. There's a culture clash between the Civilized Cats and the Free Cats, discussions about leadership, and also a very tiny love mystery. These things provide that Human/Cat element so you know you're not dealing with robots.
Ending is good. There's a climax and then falling action to resolution, and finally a sequel hook. I like that pairing.
There's a large cast of named characters. The more prominent have good development and I will highlight some of them. On the whole the cast feels more like an ensemble without a "main cast".
Shadow is the leader of the Free Cats. He's powerful and a skilled hunter. As the crisis unfolds, it's interesting to see him transition from "forest hunt leader" to "space hunt leader". It's kind of like a Industrial Revolution thing; that transfer of skills. Instead of catching mice he's catching packages in space.
Speaker is a Free Cat misfit. He's a poor hunter and "paths" i.e. (telepathic transmits) much louder than others. It turns out that he has a special skill for long range telepathy and going deeper than others. On Tvtropes, we'd call him a Woobie, so it's nice to see him "find his highwalker" in Alice.
John the human and Mrrowl the cat are like the same person in two different bodies. Both of them are studious, inquisitive, strong willed and take the long view of things. If one removed descriptions and saw only dialogue, it would be easy to imagine them being old friends of the same species. Being on the same wavelength likely helps Mrrowl add John to the "Deep Path", a Hive-Mind like group telepathy session.
No spelling or grammar errors.
Like I said above, there's a Vulcan style tone in this book. It's serious, logical, presents the facts and gets stuff done. It reminds me of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories in that way.
This is not to say that there is no emotion. For instance, when Shadow goes off to make his Heroic Sacrifice, there is a great deal of emotion. In fact, scenes such as these stand out all the more because they are rare, and therefore more memorable.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Crisis on Stardust Station" a B+
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