Gabriel's Redemption, you may remember, was one of the two titles that won my twitter contest a while back. I picked this self-published title at random from the 100 followers I had and agreed to review it. Honestly, it couldn't have gone better.
Blurb (Amazon): North American Federation Navy Commander Evan Gabriel was dishonorably discharged after a disastrous mission on a far off world called Eden. He's spent the last five years hiding from his past, from those responsible for the failed mission, from those responsible for running him out of the Navy, and from those originally responsible for making him into who he was - a highly-trained, physically and mentally augmented Special Forces soldier.
From the decaying Caribbean to politically-charged South America, from the back alleys of Mars to a tiny colony on a planet six hundred light years from Earth, Gabriel's Redemption is a near-future military science fiction story of a personal journey seen from the perspective of a soldier who has lost everything -- one who desperately needs to redeem himself not only in his government's eyes, but also his own.
Interstellar action and political intrigue mix with one-on-one battles on the surface of a frozen planet in Book One of the science fiction-adventure trilogy.
Now, I'm going to come clean about something, and I don't want anyone mocking me too badly. I don't read Sci-Fi. I know, I know. I really need to get started, and I am slowly getting there. Fantasy has always been my baby, but I'm trying to change that. So I started into Gabriel's Redemption expecting...nothing, really. I've had terrible luck with self-pubbed titles in the past, and I'm horribly under-read when it comes to Sci-Fi. However, I left Gabriel's Redemption with a newfound belief that there are authors out there self publishing that are worth reading, which might surprise some folks out there.
Evan Gabriel was easy to like as a character. He's got that Danny Glover "gettin' too old for this shit" vibe going for him. A hard man that had something terrible happen in his past, he's getting thrown back into the action all of a sudden, and it's no surprise that not everything it what it seems. The other characters weren't quite as well rounded, particularly Sabra and Lamber, which led to a little disappointment on my end when things took a twist about 50% of the way through the book.
I kept turning pages, and not just because I had promised a stranger on the internet that I would. I actually enjoyed the book. Sci-Fi has a different feel than fantasy, and as someone who hasn't read a lot of it, it was interesting to get a feel for the pacing and description, which seem somewhat different than fantasy. If I had to point out any major flaw in the book, it would be that things seemed to take too long to get going. I was reading on the Kindle, so I don't have a page count, but I think i was over 50% of the way through the book before our protagonist got into a scuffle with our antagonist. The stuff leading up to it was interesting enough for me, but for someone that's more well-read in Sci-Fi, it might not have held their attention as easily.
The book felt somewhat predictable, but once the pace got moving it was easy to just keep turning pages and enjoying the whole experience. Umstead's got a career ahead of him, and he's already got books 2 and 3 in this trilogy published for a good price, so it just might be something I'll come back to in the future. I won't declare that this is the greatest Sci-Fi epic of all time, but it was a fun read, with an enjoyable protagonist that had an almost James Bond feel to him (especially by the end of the first book).
- The Fun Factor: This felt like a summer read of a classic-style Sci-Fi.
- Umstead's action scenes. He can write them pretty darned well.
- The idea of extracting pituitary glands from Ewoks and making drugs out of them (that's how I imagined it prior to meeting the aliens on the distant planet).
- The slow start. While I kept turning pages (which is a testament to his writing) others might be turned off by the long setup to the action of the book.
More than anything, I came away from this with the knowledge that there ARE good writers out there doing self-publishing, and that Steve Umstead is probably toward the head of the pack. It's a light, fun read, but that doesn't mean there's no talent there. Also, you can tell that his book is actually pretty worthwhile just by looking at Amazon. Unlike all of the other people who have 20 5 star reviews, 3 four star reviews and nothing else, Umstead actually has people who AREN'T his mother reading and reviewing his book, which means 3 stars are present and have meaningful reviews. Good luck, Steve! You impressed me and made me a believer in the self-pub industry to a degree. I was expecting another novel that fell apart halfway through, but yours got considerably better with each page. 7.75/10.