Monday, September 26, 2016

Novella Review: Empty by Ty Arthur

There are terrors still waiting to be discovered in the vast emptiness of space. After millennia of travel through the void, man has convinced himself he is master of the stars.

Down-on-his-luck, stuck performing punishment duty in the lower levels of the Penrose, Junior Engineer 3rd Class Hansen wants nothing more than to see the wreckage of a newly discovered ship dating back to man's earliest deep space explorations.

The engineer is about to get his wish, and in the process come face-to-face with a long-dormant horror waiting patiently for the perfect vessel. What he'll uncover in the darkness will threaten to consume him, body and soul.

I really like the cover on this one-the artist did a great job with a scene that could easily fit in the novella, with perfect detailed coloring and shading. Judging by the expression on the man's face, however, a small part of me wonders if this cover would have worked even better tied to a comedy, which Empty is certainly not. That is a minor opinion however, and it certainly works a million times better than the cover on my ARC copy (which was a big white page of nothing!)

I'll start with the positive on this one. It is a refreshing to see a science fiction novel where the focus is on a junior engineer instead of any of the main officers, whom the reader will almost never, ever see. The entire ship is very large, pitch-black, and atmospheric, and it is almost impossible for one crew member to see another without the aid of a hovering light. Overall the author puts a great deal of descriptive language in this which the setting very claustrophobic.

Since there is not a great deal of character interaction, most of the novella is focused on Hansen, a junior engineer. And, unfortunately, we don't get a great deal of background about Hansen, save that he has a bit of a rebellious streak in the beginning, when one of his pranks gets him in trouble and forced to do isolated duties below decks. A little bit more background would have been appreciated, especially when he makes some questionable decisions. He also seems to have free reign of the ship in the second half, and while I did say it was interesting not to have any command staff involved, having more idea of what they were up to in order to stop Hansen would have also been interesting. It might have even added to the atmosphere as Hansen sees the black shadows of security looking for him.

From a technical side, the novella could have also used some more editing. Empty has a great deal of descriptive language, but also has a great deal of prose as well. Having someone trim this down and also fix the occasional past/present/future error tense would have made this read far more enjoyable.

FINAL GRADE: 2.5 out of 5. Some ideas were interesting, but another round of editing and more internal dialogue would have given this a higher grade. This is a short read (about 90 pages) so if you would like an atmospheric novella with some interesting ideas this would be a good one to check out.

Empty can be found here.

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