Mara’s Awakening (The Mara Files, Book 1), by Leo Flynn [Review]

I’m a science fiction fan and had positive expectations for Mr. Flynn’s attempt to construct a serial space opera consisting of a progression of short stories. Naturally, the key to success is an opening segment that captivates the reader, who then can’t wait for the next installment. Unfortunately, for all its action, this story falls short. As the opening sequence of a novel, it might keep me reading, but as a stand-alone opening episode in the series, it doesn’t make me want to binge-read, even if the next chapter were available.

The meat of the story has some intrigue and appeal. Mara has been in solitary confinement for six years, and is finally released into the regular population of her space prison. She is a famous warrior, with impressive powers, and there is a suggestion that her conviction and confinement were somehow less than fully justified. She immediately hooks up with two companions – one a human female and the other a very alien creature – who are preparing to bust out of the jail. Mara is just in time to join the escape plan. The jailbreak and what we learn about the participants is the substance of the short story.

The action is fine, although the mix of futuristic weapons and medieval hardware is puzzling. This plot would sustain the story except for several problems. First, the writing is choppy, almost like it’s intended to sound like a lyric poem. After a while, you get use to the odd style, but it’s still jarring and distracting for no good reason. Second, while all the other characters speak in modern English, the protagonist speaks like a pirate. There’s no explanation for why her speech pattern is so different, and it’s again distracting and annoying rather than being unique and interesting (which is what the author seems to be going for). Third, there is not enough backstory or explanation here to make us really care about any of the characters. Action is fine, but it only works if we are invested in the characters and are concerned about whether they live or die (or in this case, escape or not). We get bits and pieces, but it’s not enough. I understand that it’s a short story, but it’s still the opening of an epic and at the end I’m not connected enough to Mara to be concerned about what happens in chapter 2. Mr. Flynn would be better served to write a whole novel. As a short story, this is decent, but not compelling.

I received an advance reader copy of this short story from the author asking for an honest review.

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