It’s a sort of hobby of mine to go around looking for new indie novels to read. No, not because I’m trying to be a hipster. I like my Starbucks and Disney movies, thank you very much. I enjoy self-published novels because I’ve realized that those are the books that offer something new. When a book is self-published, it’s often because it didn’t fit neatly into a specific genre. Its characters couldn’t be categorized into age groups or personality types. Its messages and ideas were a bit too rich for your run of the mill derelicts who enjoy books like The Maze Runner (Don’t get offended. I thought The Maze Runner was pretty cool, too). In short: Indie books are different. And, if you get to the point where you read so much that books start to smear together in a hodge podge of similar themes, characters, and messages, then different is good.
For example, take Embassy, book 1 in the Recovery Series by S. Alex Martin. Technically, it’s a sci-fi novel. But when I think sci-fi, I think of dudes fighting aliens with laser guns and making escapes in cool spaceships with space-princesses. None of those things, however, make it into Embassy (except for cool spaceships, which is fine by me because spaceships rock), but it still happens to be a very, very good read. First, let me explain the story:
Arman has had almost all of his childhood dreams dragged through the mud, shot, and hanged. He had planned to travel the galaxy. He was supposed to go on grand adventures just like the ones he heard about from his Dad. He had expected to be able to fly to Belvun, the home planet of Ladia, a girl he had fallen for almost four summers ago.
He most certainly had not planned on being stuck on his home planet. He had not expected his friends to turn against him….Or foreseen having to watch his own father die.
But that’s what happened. Now Arman only has one dream left to cling to: Ladia. So he joins the Embassy program, which gets him a job that takes him away from his home. More importantly, it takes him to Belvun, where he plans to meet up with the girl he loves. The girl he hasn’t seen since their fling four years ago. They can pick up where they left off and Arman can find happiness again.
Yeah. Obviously, Arman isn’t thinking too clearly. What he really needs is a slap upside the head, but nobody is willing to give it to him.
Except for Glacia Haverns: the adrenaline junkie who decides that it is her personal duty to set Arman straight. If that means beating him in Hologis tournaments, taking him star-gazing, or laughing at his poor-flying skills, then so be it. Despite Arman’s best attempts to ward her off, Glacia is going to show Arman the difference between obsession and love, between merely existing and truly living.
Unlike most sci-fi/futuristic novels, Embassy depicts a human race that is fighting to fix its problems and bring about peace. There are no flesh-eating humans that are a side-effect of bio warfare, no utterly corrupted governments, no post-apocalyptic scenarios where only a handful of people survive.
Rather, Embassy projects a world of hope and bright futures in which the humanity doesn’t blow itself half way to hell. And, in a world where most books follow the basic “Humans screwed things up, we’re all going to die, and there’s nothing we can do” scenario, I think we need more of that. In case you're interested (which you should be, because it's a great post), author S. Alex Martin wrote about that topic here: “YA Sci-Fi Needs to Raise More Awareness for Human Endeavor -- And Here's Why.”
The novel Embassy inspires us to get out there and work for our dreams, but also makes us stop and wonder whether our goals are really what they should be.
In the beginning of the novel, Arman’s life is taking a turn for the worst, so he just curls up, sulks, and isolates himself from the world. But, through Glacia and a host of other characters, he sees the errors of this approach and learns how to take life as it is: slightly broken, but fixable.
On top of the great messages and ideas behind this book, the characters are realistic, believable, and entertaining. From the excitable and slightly scattered John to old Captain Blitner to the fun-loving Glacia, there is a character in here for everyone. The universe of Embassy is very developed and intriguing, and, honestly, their Hologis tournaments sound awesome. Can I please sign up to be an Embassy recruit and Hologis player? Can somebody make that happen? You know a book is good when it makes you want to live in the world it describes.
The beginning of Embassy is a bit slow, which is strange because the rest of the novel is well-paced. The writing style is nothing insanely spectacular, but since the story is carried mostly on characters development, dialogue, themes, and is told in first person, I didn’t feel the need for beautiful prose. Plus, Embassy is written in present tense ("I say" rather than "I said"), something that I see writers continually get wrong. S. Alex Martin somehow managed to carry it out flawlessly. The writer part of me wants to give him a standing ovation for that fact alone.
Is this book worth the read? YES. People who enjoy uplifting sci-fi/futuristic novels, impressive character arcs, stories with meaning, and developed worlds will love Embassy. The second book in this series, called Resonance, will be released January 1st, 2016. I am beyond excited to get a closer look at the Embassy universe, and, of course, I can’t wait to watch Arman, Glacia, and company make their way through the galaxy.
What about you? Have you read Embassy or any other marvelous indie books lately? Leave a comment below and tell me about your experience!
Hannah Heath: bookworm and aspiring author