“Cold Planet: A Gateway Universe Story” is a complex book bridging science fiction, space marines, and the struggles of an elite female officer forced to make life and death decisions directly affecting the survival of not only herself, but her crew and race as well. The book’s author is Brian Dorsey and the audiobook’s narration is performed by Meghan Kelly. The book is between a novel and novella coming in at 263 pages or six hours of audio, yet it does contain a fair amount of action and adventure. I’m a fan of science fiction and also like a good struggle to survive story, but for me, I felt the planet was a bit too cold and sterile for my taste. This is not saying that I disliked the book as it had potential, but the execution was not what I had expected or hoped for based on the publisher’s summary.
The author created an interesting and believable story framework, but it lacked much of what differentiates a simple story from an amazing adventure. Throughout much of the book I did not feel that I was a part of the world as much as I was an outsider looking inward. From the author’s background bio, I was expecting bigger battles, yet this story mainly revolved around the inner struggles of the main character; which is not a bad thing. As I listened, I wanted more of Emily as the book progressed. She had to deal with very emotional experiences and I found myself drawn to her. However, most of the other characters in the book felt flat and one dimensional. When I was presented with some backstory details on the other characters, it seemed forced or to come just in the nick of time to resolve a situation the characters faced. I would have like to have seen this information trickle in over time and have that “ah” moment when I thought back to first learning of it. Presenting such information to the listener over time would have been more impactful in the long run. I wanted to know more of their struggles and backstories than the author provided. As short as the book was, I felt had there been a bit more work, the book could have been bigger, grander, and epic in so many ways.
Not only were the book’s characters lacking in development, the depth and complexity of writing was thin at times. I felt that the writing style felt younger adult (YA) than it should have. This may be the author finding his style, or the book may be intended for a younger audience which I would question due to some of the included subject matter. I will say that I was rather impressed with the way the author developed the planet where much of the action takes place. The world felt unforgiving, unrelenting, and uninhabitable. All of these worldly aspects make for quite a challenge because the book could go in so many different directions and it helped to build a sense of dread over the characters. The expected and regular times the planet faced the vast temperature swings were points of high anxiety not only for the characters but the listener as well. I quite enjoyed the technology, medicine, environments, and futuristic feel. The war dog was one of my favorite characters as it was loyal and faithful as a real service dog would have been.
Let me turn my attention to the book’s narration performed by Megan Kelly. She is no newcomer to the narration scene with over 160 titles currently on Audible at the time of this review. It appears most of her work has been in the romance genre, but I felt she did an exceptional job narrating this book. Her inflection and ability to voice the many different characters found in this book shows a level of professionalism and maturity in her voice. I did not notice any issues with the audio volume nor do I recall any artifacts such as swallows or page turns while listening. I will be watching for future books narrated by her.
For parents and younger readers, be aware that this book contains a fair amount of vulgar, crude, and sexual context that at times would even make a true marine blush. The language was unnecessary and for me it did not make the characters seem tougher or more military, it was quite the opposite. I understand the camaraderie of people in battle, yet the language along with the various pokes and jabs at one another seemed less mature than I would have expected from people in this situation. If any of this concerns you, I would recommend you find a different book to listen too.
In summary, I will say the book was good, but it could have been exceptional with a few modifications. The author did a good job of summarizing the book’s events near the end of the story helping listeners to be on the same page before the final events take place. I like that the story was self-contained and not part of a series requiring one to constantly pay for the next in the series. The narration and book’s environments were detailed and picturesque, however I wanted more from the characters and why they were the people they were and the reasons for fighting as they did for their race.