Our first impressions of Arter

Find out The Space Girls’ first impressions of SPSFC contestant, Arter by Sylas Seabrook.

As part of the Self-Published Sci-Fi Competition, my team (The Space Girls) has been given 25 books to read. Of this initial allocation (or ‘slush pile’), we are reading the first 30% and then voting Yes or No on whether we’d like to continue reading further. You can see our full allocation in my previous blog.

Here are the team’s first impressions of Arter by Sylas Seabrook. (You can find all of our first impressions posts here.)

The cover of ArterBook blurb

For a hundred thousand years, Sumatta has reigned as the source of all life on the planet Arter. Arter is a pangean continent whose skies are filled by a constant aurora and whose science is based off of aten, small bits of energy captured by nature which harness the fundamental forces of nature.

Unel seeks to use aten to connect Arterians through their dreams in hopes of one day allowing Arterians to communicate through the mind directly. Finding the right aten and the right design for his device, the draumr, proves frustrating, and he finds himself relying on the support of his bonded (wife) to complete the project.

As he discovers the necessary formula and they begin a family, Sumatta brings a message. Sumatta, Guardian of Ages, brings a message of a new age which will change Arter forever and give new meaning to Unel’s hopes for the draumr device.

This story was six years in the making and is the first in a series of books which will take us deeper into the world-building of a universe of universes filled with characters who seek to better themselves, save the worlds the know, and the gods who play amongst them.

Our first impressions

Nancy: At almost 30% into the story, I am not even sure what the book is about in the first place. Is it a story about improving fertility for the Arterians? Political assassination thriller? A coming of age story starring a teenage priestess for the fertility god? Or a marital love story? I spotted very few typos, and the prose is clear enough. But I didn’t see where all of the separated stories would converge, which can be a problem so far into the story. I would have liked it a lot more if the female characters were written with a minimal figment of self-sufficiency instead of being the hip swaying decorations of their male partners. (N)

Claire: Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into Arter. I felt bored at the 30% mark, and didn’t want to continue reading. I didn’t like the main character Unel, who is obsessed with creating a machine that lets people communicate with others in dreams, or his romance with Trellia, who wants to distract Unel from his work with her body. There is so much detail about the dream machine (too much, really), and Unel only ever thinks about the machine and how much he loves Trellia. It’s a little odd.

I liked the premise of all women being infertile until they eat ‘attaten’, rare expensive eggs. This allows women to have full control over when they want to start a family. It was an interesting idea, but it wasn’t really explored.

I really didn’t like the way that women were described. The only descriptions of characters were of the women — I couldn’t tell you what any of the characters look like, and I was confused for a while whether the book was about humans or aliens. For example, Unel’s receptionist is referred to as “very hefty” and Unel’s partner Trellia’s hair and body is described a lot. (N)

Kerry: I personally felt the writer was trying to expound his conservative opinion on what makes someone born female a woman, with a bit of sci-fi tangled around it. Some descriptors were totally unnecessary — “HEFTY” for a plump woman, “girly” for a young female.

Women were defined by their physical attributes and this took up a fair bit of the start of the book – by 30% I still wasn’t exactly sure what the plot was. There were some interesting ideas such as aten which was a form of energy and how a certain type made female Arterians (humanoids on Arter) pregnant. All women are born infertile and it supposedly cost significant amount to acquire an egg. The majority of the first part of the book centres mainly on two characters then close to the 30% mark a number of other characters start appearing. One gets a rough sense of them but I’d like to have been introduced to their stories and POVs a bit earlier which would have encouraged further exploration of this book. (N)

Katherine: Didn’t find the opening that interesting. An experiment into telepathy was name soup for a while. Atoms etc. appear to be solid and visible in this? It made me ask whether they were aliens who saw things differently, but they’re described very much human. Later it’s suggested there are other planets and non-Arterians, but we don’t know what the differences are — even when it seemed like we met some. There was no real hook for me before his ‘bonded’ came in trying to ‘distract’ him. Some typos and and sometimes an odd way of constructing sentences.

Next chapter drifted over to their religion, which is interesting I guess with the 4D tree, but not much happened. The fact ‘it’ is used as the pronoun for the sexless Reader is off-putting compared to ‘they’. Really didn’t need to read about Unel licking cream off his bonded’s boobs and got fed up of how often they said they loved each other. Also, fertility being controlled by rare expensive eggs is a brilliant hook for a sort of dystopia, but this book didn’t shape up to go in that direction. Interesting how easy it is to reverse the polarity of the magic sex eggs and make them deadly.

If Arterians were obviously not human, I would be more okay with the women not occupying good positions, but they’re basically humans with a different name, so it comes across odd. Especially in a world where they have full control over their reproduction – the usual human reasons for keeping women down don’t really apply.

Gets slightly more interesting when stuff explodes, but then immediately puts us in another PoV with a character we don’t care about. Then another one. What should feel like a big reveal about their god’s true nature was told in two sentences rather nonchalantly when it could have had a more impactful reveal.

…Also, I’m sorry, but their god is totally shaped like a dong from the description I read. (N)

Our verdict: Cut

Please note that these opinions are the judges’ initial impressions of only a part of each book. A book being cut doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad or not worth reading.