“Star Crusades: Valentine” is the first audiobook in what is to become an epic space marine sage under the series with the same title. If you are one who enjoys listening to large battles involving massive cruisers and battleships along with the men and women on the front line fighting for their lives, I think you may find this book to your liking. The story is written by Michael G. Thomas who is well known for his many science fiction space sagas. The audiobook is expertly narrated by Shamaan Casey who is an up and coming audiobook narrator with a unique sound and style. The story is that of a strong female Marine who during the heat of battle is severely injured and near death. The last thing she remembers seeing is a powerful explosion ripping though her ship and then things went black. No one could have survived such a blast, and she knew it. Surprisingly for her, she awakes broken and confused in a Marine medical facility. To her astonishment, she discovers that her body, while in a coma and recovering from her injuries, was modified using cybernetics. This had me recalling the old TV show, “The Six Million Dollar Man”, but this one is better. All of this work to restore her was done so she could become one of the elite fighting members of the newly formed Novas. If you like big battles and massive amounts of action, you may want to check out this audiobook and even the author’s other works if you like science fiction.
The audiobook has many scenes with action, violence, exploration, and discovery. There is a clear mission with a powerful foe who needs to be defeated. There are large ships, epic battles and some clearly unique and interesting technologies. Not only are we shown the advancement of things like autonomous mules for carrying goods, we see some quite amazing technology used to augment our wounded soldiers. The CORTEX integration system was both functional and snarky at the same time, and I liked its many quirks. Even in the future computers will have their issues. Maybe like today, turning them off and on might fix most of the problems. I quite enjoyed the character’s interaction with the cybernetic subsystem. As the book stated, these modifications provided the Marines the power of a god in the form of a human. My favorite aspect was the world building, ships, and technology. The writing was detailed and often well developed. I would also like to say that the military tactics and actions seemed realistic and researched. Even though the story took place in the future, it was believable.
I felt the book lacked a few of the things that make a story go from good to great. Although I liked the main characters, most of them seemed thin or flat. I wanted more than just information about them, I wanted to know and understand them. I did not feel a deep connection to most and a few flashbacks or other details on why these characters were who they were would have made the story more personal and connectable. The plot was solid, but I wanted to know more about the war, the reasons, cultures, etc. To me, it felt a bit like knowledge transfer than it did a story told. This is not saying the book was bad, not at all. I just like more depth and connection in my stories even if they contain space Marines.
The audiobook’s narration by Mr. Casey was deep, rich and clean. His professional voicing gave me a feeling of the vastness and coldness of space. He was able to clearly distinguish the various characters with their own voices and personalities which can be difficult when you have a number of characters along with mixed genders. For me, I was not a fan of Captain Olik’s voice, but I understand why he was voiced in this way. The narration had a few slight audio plugs where you could notice a correction was necessary, but these were very few and far between. The rest of the audio was well-produced and professional. I have enjoyed and reviewed other books by this narrator, and I look forward to many more.
For parents and younger readers, it should come as no surprise that the book contains violence and some of it being rather graphic. There is also vulgar language and crude humor sprinkled in the storyline, but I thought the author did a good job of limiting this to only sections unlike other space Marine stories I have listened to. Because of the violence I would not recommend this for younger listeners.
In summary, the plot and tech are solid. I like the character interaction and working together to achieve a goal. I would have like to have had more details on why and how they got to this place, more about the tech, more about the ships, etc. More back story, flashbacks, or other details making the characters feel more rounded and connected. The book’s narration was solid and rich. There is a concrete story here in the book, don’t get me wrong. For those who like the space military genre, I would say give it a listen.