“Aces” is the first book in what is to become an action-packed science fiction series which felt like a blending of the movies Gravity, Die Hard, The Poseidon Adventure along with a much darker version of Home alone. Throw in a sprinkling of Jurassic Park dinosaurs and trust me, you have a fun and entertaining adventure story. The book is written by Craig Alanson who is well known for many of his other series such as “The Expeditionary Force” and the “Ascendant” series. The audiobook’s narration is expertly performed by MacLeod Andrews; a veteran to audiobook narration with over three-hundred books (many including my favorites) to his credit. If you enjoy deeply engaging science fiction stories where the cold and darkness of space is the least of your worries, you will enjoy listening to “Aces”.
For a book that starts out with a family boarding a space elevator (how cool is that), arriving at a docked cargo ship, and will shortly be off on a routine trip to a new planetary system. Things begin to go wrong, and in some cases very wrong when a rogue group of people are determined to get back a piece of technology that has the power to change the world, and they will go to any lengths to get it. The author does a very good job of describing the scenes along with the more futuristic technology. Everything felt believable in a near future scenario. Not only does this book take place on this large cargo ship, we are for a time, dropped down on a planet and see how harsh a place it can be to only survive. One thing the author does well is to show the determination of a parent for their children, and even the other way around. Yes, even teenagers when put in the right situation will express their love for a parent.
For a book that was filled with action sequences (some quite graphic), I was somewhat surprised that the prologue had less of a hook than I would have expected. This is not to say it was boning or drab, but lower key and less impactful than the rest of the book. If you are just starting the book and begin feeling it is not your liking, listen up to chapter seven at least and see if you can put it down then. The book really begins to open up and shine around chapter five. The author does a good job of using chapters one through four as story background and build up. Starting at chapter five onwards, what seemed mundane quickly devolves into a tangled web of hide and seek along with multiple games of survival. Really, it is one very well-done serial novel.
I had to laugh when things are going from boring to catastrophic, the kids at first were completely oblivious to the events happening around them. As things heated up, I liked the shifting from one scene to another and each was a mini story all its own. Somewhat like side missions in a role-playing game that were taking place at the same the main storyline progressed. I quite enjoyed the ingenious ways some of the characters were able to get out of what seemed to be impossible situations. Often, the kids did not seem to want to save themselves (as many would), but instead were focused on the mission and the desire to save their parents. Even with the main focus being on the action and activities happening, the author did a good job of showing us some of the more emotional side of things. Not only are we shown the love between family, but one gets a sense of the weight and burden the kids carried to be successful at their task.
As stated earlier, I enjoyed some of the technology the author created for us. We are shown some rather unique missiles and hand weapons. The ship felt vast with many paths and tributaries I would image finding in a large modern-day seafaring cargo ship. We are also presented with an interesting and fun robot that often will make you laugh out loud when he scolds a “bad kitty” who gets into trouble.
With regard to the audiobook’s narration, MacLeod Andrews hits a home run in my book. The voicing is flawless. He is able to narrate the teenagers quite well, even when listening to the audio at higher speed then normal. There were small added elements showing that the narrator is skilled in his ability by portraying subtle pieces of sarcasm. The characters all felt distinct with their own personalities. I know this is often an aspect of a book’s writing, but narration can help enhance this a great deal. There were also some light sound effects thrown is which provided a bit of ambiance to the book. The effects were not over done, nor did they overpower the story for those who only like books containing strict narration.
For parents and younger readers, I have to give the author credit for not having to throw in vulgar language, sexual themes, or adult subject matter and still produce an exciting and action story. There are a few scenes where there is some rather graphic violence, but nothing that is included for shock factor or what would be outside of a science fiction novel. I’m not sure I would recommend the book to those younger then teenagers, but the book is easily enjoyable by both teens and adults alike.
In summary, if you are looking to fill your time with a new and exciting science fiction space survival story, I think you may want to have a look at “Aces” by Craig Alanson and MacLeod Andrews. At times it is light-hearted, other times it is intense, but all-in-all it is a well-crafted story narrated by an expert in his field. At the time of this review, only the first book in the series is available in Audiobook format (exclusive to Audible), but it is worth waiting for the rest after you listen to this one.