Audiobook Review: Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of The Silence
Publisher: Hachette Audio (September 6, 2016)
Length: 20 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Jack Hawkins
It’s Seven Samurai set to a backdrop of a rollicking space opera in D. Nolan Clark’s (pseudonym of horror writer David Wellington) Forsaken Skies, the first book of The Silence series. This is the kind of science fiction story I love listening to in audio, so I was grateful to be offered the audiobook version to review.
From the depths of space comes a new enemy, and their first victim is a remote planet called Niraya, home to colony of peaceful farmers and religious exiles. In a desperate gambit, Elder McRae and Aspirant Roan stowaway on a freighter bound for the Hexus space hub in the hopes of finding help. When the two women arrive though, it’s to apathy and apologetic shrugs. Worse, they are even swindled by an unscrupulous officer named Lieutenant Maggs, who would have gotten away with his scam too had it not for the intervention of two good Samaritans, legendary pilot Aleister Lanoe and orbital traffic controller Tannis Valk.
Lanoe had happened to be on the Hexus after pursuing a suspected murderer to the space hub. The fugitive, a young man named Thom, had indeed killed his own father, but purportedly in self-defense. Feeling for the kid, Lanoe decides to take him under his wing. No one had any clue though, that the boy’s actions would precipitate a chain of events culminating into an adventure of such epic proportions, because struck by Elder McRae and Roan’s plight, Lanoe also decides to come to the aid of the Nirayans. He immediately recruits the help of a couple more buddies from back in the war, including his old flame Bettina Zhang as well as a Marine named Ehta. With Maggs, Valk, and Thom also on board, their group makes for a pretty ragtag crew, but with years of battle experience and piloting skills between them, Niraya may yet have a chance against their cold, ruthless foes.
For the first book of a new series, Forsaken Skies sure knows how to kick things off with style. It is an action-filled space adventure, and yet the story is notable for its extremely detailed look at its group of characters. This is one of the main reasons why the book runs so long. While the author presents a scenario where a helpless planet is under an imminent threat, he also wants the readers to really get to know his heroes, so the story takes its time shining a light on each of our key players.
For character-oriented readers who are looking for more than just a wham-bam adventure, this may be the best thing about this book. Hands down, my favorite part was the intro, watching the tangled lives of all the characters gradually converge. The introduction to each person may seem rather slapdash at first—everyone was so different, and events felt randomly thrown out and disjointed—but rest assured, everything will ultimately come together like pieces of a puzzle. Once the connections started to form, and the relationships began to make sense, I was hooked.
If you want things to move quickly though, then this might not be a book for you. While it has its fair share of space battles and disaster sequences, this isn’t exactly a story where heart-thumping action sequences will come flying at you around every corner either. Instead, much of it is given to developing the characters and their relationships, examining their backstories and how their pasts have shaped who they are now. Like I said, this is very much a novel that focuses on characters. It likes to slow down every now and then to build on them, and I won’t lie, as much as I love character development, there were times I just wanted things to move along. I concede, maybe this book could have been edited down a little. It made me glad I was reviewing the audio edition though, since any parts that dragged were probably offset by the fact I was listening and not reading the physical print.
And speaking of the audio format, the narration for the audiobook of Forsaken Skies is excellent. For a book with this many characters, my main concern for the audio was whether or not I could distinguish who was speaking, but narrator Jack Hawkins laid my worries to rest almost immediately with his deft handling of dialogue. He had a distinct voice for everyone—Lanoe had a certain accent, for example, and Maggs had a cocky inflection that was perfect for his character—and there was never any confusion who was talking, even in scenes where multiple people were gathered and having a conversation. Hawkins may have been another new-to-me narrator, but going forward, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his future performances.
Final verdict? When I first saw the runtime of Forsaken Skies, it did strike me as a bit long compared to similar offerings in the same genre. I later came to realize it was because so much of the book was about giving a thoroughly detailed picture of all the characters—and there are quite a few of them. This does draw things out and slows down the pace, robbing the situation of its urgency somewhat, but if you like space operas that are more than just plain action though, featuring characters you get to know and care about, this might be worth a read. The audiobook and Jack Hawkin’s talented narration also adds an extra layer of humanity to the characters, so if you are considering the audio edition, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.