Station Breaker, written by Andrew Mayne, is the first book in the “Space Ops” Series; which is getting some attention due to the high customer ratings and reviews. At this time, the first two books are currently available in audiobook format on Audible. It is unclear if the series will become a trilogy or something much larger. I guess we will have to wait and see. The book was well narrated by Kyle McCarley who has over sixty books narrated at the time of this review. If you are looking for a fast-paced action-packed science fiction spy thriller, like a SciFi version of “The Fast and the Furious”, blended with pieces from “The Abyss”, and parts from “The Right Stuff” you will want to have a listen to this audiobook. There are times you will be required to suspend belief as this book is not a true story. However, the author reminds the listener at the beginning of the book that all the space technology covered actually exists today giving a very authentic feel.
From its beginning, the book draws the listener quickly into the story through a few of the initial character’s mysterious and suspicious actions. There is a last-minute change to the crew due to illness; as many know, this is never a good thing. Then, quite surprisingly, the spacecraft is required to divert to an orbiting Russian space station due to an unusual system failure while initiating its orbital procedure. If all that seems quite strange, things quickly spin out of control and get even more complicated for our main character after this. One quickly learns who their friends are from those attempting to kill them, and at times this line is blurred. From the book’s start to its finish, it keeps the listener on the edge of their seat wondering who and what is behind all this clandestine activity, and thankfully I was able to listen to most of it during a long car trip.
Even though at times the book felt predictable in places, I thought the author did a good job of keeping my interest. The characters were given depth and life by way of background details, often in flashback sequences, helping the listener know why they act a certain way. There were quite a few unexpected events that I felt outweighed the predictable ones. I also felt the author did a good job of showing the decline in the United States space program and that there is still the competition between the US and its Russian counterparts. There were some welcomed discussions around Elon Musk and his SpaceX program, along with a few other commercial space programs. In my opinion, the book really is a spy thriller wrapped in a space theme. Again, this is not a bad thing, just be aware if you are expecting a deep and heavy science fiction space story. These are a few of the reasons I’m recommending the book. However, that is not to say that the book does not have its issues.
I found the action sequences to often be rushed and much shorter than I would have expected. When there was a good amount of tension and action throughout the book and I would have liked to have had more detail focusing on the event occurring than the author provided. A story often follows the standard build up, climax, and release stages allowing the listener to have some time to comprehend what just took place. However, with this book, action events build and climax then move right into the next action scene. I felt there was little time given to the listener by means of release, I wanted to have more time between action events allowing me to come up for air before being thrown into the next scenario. I also felt the use of internal dialogue to be overly used. I know such dialogue is important when the main character is the only person in the scene; like with the move “Cast Away”, but I would have liked to have less internal dialogue and more narration. This also goes for the character’s internal communication consisting of both wit and sarcasm, I’m hoping for a little less in the second book as this one seemed to be over the top for me.
As I listen to a book I’m going to review, I often take notes to help remind me of items or issues observed along the way. As I look back on my notes relating to the narrator, there were very few; which is a good thing. I thought Mr. McCarley did an exceptional job narrating the multiple characters and even the many accents including Russian and Portuguese. A few of the female parts were rough at times, but I understand a male character properly narrating a female character can be difficult. I do not recall any issues with volume inconsistencies or any other audio artifacts such as swallowing, page turns, or background noise. I was also glad to see that the second book in the series is performed by the same narrator.
For parents and younger readers, be aware this book has a fair amount of vulgar language. Four letter words flow quite freely and are not the words one expects coming from highly trained astronauts. The book includes some discussion and references to topics involving sex along with sexual innuendos. There are also a few scenes that may not be appropriate for younger readers due to the amount of intense or graphic violence. For those easily offended by the above, I recommend you find a different series.
In summary, the book is a great first entry in to what appears to be quite an action-packed space series. The author did a great job researching the many topics and technology covered, but I would have liked to have had more information or details around some of these items. I’m all for action and adventure, yet it is important to understand the technology used and why. There is a fine line where an author can be overly descriptive, but I feel this author went a bit farther to the other side of the line. I would still recommend this book to others even with a few of its faults, and I’m excited to hear what comes next in book two.