Qin's Reviews > Final Flight of the Ranegr

Final Flight of the Ranegr by Craig Stephen Cooper
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It saddens me to report that this very articulate book left me with a bad case of cold feet. The author's sharp command of English, which never shines more than in the dialogues, unfortunately does not extend to the technicalities of narratology: whereas not only each of the three alien protagonists, puny fighter Zeers, blue-blooded tomboy Neliya, and genious boy-scientist Fyuren, but even the most sporadic secondary or tertiary characters are given their own personality through each statement they utter and each replica they made, mostly but by no means solely through the clever resort to brogues, archaic language, neologisms or a mishmash of all three devices, the same cannot be said about the leads' specific narrative voice whenever a section happens to report their POV, since their internal discourse is then invariably spotty, flat, and otherwise unremarkable (this defect most glaringly affects the introductory chapter which takes place on their race's huge mothership). The external focalization most of the story is written in otherwise permeates it with a sense of aloofness and distance, if not estrangement, which goes a long way towards disconnecting the protagonists from the reader, while falling pray to the technical objection of inconsistency since Mr Cooper often veers temporarily into internal focalization to delivers information which even an omniscient narrator could hardly presume to know (or should really have imported in different patterns). Let me provide an illustration of both gripes (italics are as they stand in the original; I put all external focalization in Roman and in bold the shifts to internal focalization):

"For a long while, Fyuren rocked at the foot of the bed, chanting, “Mum and Dad’re looking for me.” When that stopped working, he found a piece of old chalk under a film of dust in the corner, and took to scribbling his tunnelling theory on the walls. “It keeps my mind off things,” he saidwhen asked.

Zeers often found himself restless after work, and took to push-ups and other exercises. His periodic grunting annoyed his already troubled friends-turned-roommates, though they admitted he looked fitter.

Neliya spent her nights watching her music player’s battery indicator drain. A soft spoken part of mind suggested she ask Allo to charge the battery, but it fell silent long after the device away its last tune. Too much of her mind was overrun with a single thought."

You wanted off the Othala.

“Not here,” she would growl deliriously.

You want to go back?

“No!”

You’re stuck … Like always.

The cycle repeated for hours until she returned to sleep and dreamed of a pipe shrinking around her. Somehow, she managed to clean the real pipes every day.

The crew paid them little mind in those first months.

The only thing Allo said to them, except which pipes to clean, was, “Mind the Nightshift.” It was that consistent warning, among other things, that put nightmares in their heads. Every now and then, Neliya or Fyuren would point out shadows at the end of a rusty corridor. Zeers was always quiet, however, and brushed off their sightings as, “just seein’ things.”

One night, as they trudged back to their room with sore shoulders once more, Neliya looked down a corridor, the lights of which had been replaced recently. At the end of the corridor was an intersection, the walls of which were bathed in shimmering red light. Then, slowly and sinisterly, a silhouette crept into the light: a burly creature, seemingly multi-armed, with a pair of sharp horns. Neliya’s whole body trembled with horror, absolutely certain that the thing’s eyes were glowing at her."

Fyuren believed her, and went into another spiral of panic that lasted the entire night. When the children asked Allo for a weapon in case something came after them, he just laughed."

The, rather silly, internal dialogue that takes place between the alien girl and her own self could not have been most awkwardly inserted, for it occurs in the midst of a temporal ellipsis which it disrupts for no discernible reason (on logical grounds, one indeed expected here nothing but a fuller sketch of the ways in which the newest additions to the crew of the Ranegr were adjusting while time was rushing by), and I must confess a measure of hilarity as to the obnoxious 'slowly and sinisterly'. An entire, full-length tale of space adventures and mayhem narrated this way is almost more than I could suffer with equanimity, for every few paragraphs I was thrown out of the story's flow, no matter how hard I had to concentrate. The same criticism must, unfortunately, be levelled at the handling of the emergency that has the three leads evacuate the mothership, thereby launching their odyssey: it is very weakly rooted in a vague collapse of the biosphere whose sole manifestation turns out to be an infestation of bugs throughout the entire residential areas of the ship. Obviously the distinguished author never paused to ask himself whether the dictum parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus applied here. It would be tedious, as well as overlong, to parse some of the similarly fake narrative shortcuts the story allows itself to rest upon, though I cannot confine to silence the laughably minuscule length of time the trio spends inside the tiny vehicle which was supposed to deliver them to their own world (the reader has not sooner digested the fact that something wrong happened during the launch through Mr Cooper's equivalent of a wormhole that already the lads and lass are boarded by the Raneger - such a great rush is ambience-killing and a sheer killer in terms of pacing); even in the case of a YA novel, a genre which almost inevitably requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, the adorable main cast deserved rather better than such expedients and sleights of hand.

Mr Cooper, it has to be said, excels beyond all other things at depicting the cultural, material and technological aspects of science fiction, from space-faring and technology down to xenomythology and language-related topics; his book outshines in this respect even such superb works as David Brin's Uplift Universe (though it falls quite short, in my opinion, of the fabulous Startide Rising). Yet I never felt that his aptitudes for universe-building were top notch, mostly out of a lack of interest in minute description- neither the mothership, nor the Ranegr, her crew, or the trio of leads itself elicit more than painfully desultory sketches. Mind you, it takes some forty pages to be told that Zeers and co. are yellow-skinned, four-fingered humanoids (and that very last tidbit has to be puzzled out by the reader on their own, since the trio is obviously anthropomorphic, so much actually that they even clean water cubicles as a punishment for being waggish at school!), while the carer of one of the three is different, qua an 'Earthen' (not an human, despite the wording, since that character is said to have leathery skin). The absence of a lexicon of the most commonly-used alien words and designations, along with a table of the cast providing at least some basic statistics for each and every player, could not have been more detrimental to the understanding of this complex universe.

Two stars and a half, rounded up to three because the basics of the story, the characters, the events, the invented universe, all showcase an impressive array of literary prowess. Too bad this was not nearly as immersive and cohesive as the sheer ambition of the project would have warranted.
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Reading Progress

March 10, 2019 – Started Reading
March 10, 2019 – Shelved
March 11, 2019 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Craig (new) - added it

Craig Cooper Yay! My first review. Thank you very much!


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