First impressions of Orbem Novis

Find out The Space Girls first impressions of SPSFC contestant, Orbem Novis by Balle F. Algiers.

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 Orbem Novis by Balle F. Algiers. (You can find all of our first impressions posts here.)

The cover of Orbem NovisBook blurb

Three centuries after the Orbem Novis colonists told off-Earth financiers who backed their voyage to stay away from their new home on a distant planet or face death, the Farside Corporation receives an unusual request. Two top-drawer agents are hired to locate the last descendants on Earth of the colonists’ leader and bring them to Orbem Novis. The mission, however, keeps changing as the agents travel 50 light-years to a new world teeming with strange life forms. When civil war breaks out among the colonists, the agents learn they are pawns not of the Farside Corporation but a more powerful force – an artificial intelligence that links their universe to another and the long lost mining ship Anaconda.

Goodreads / Amazon

Our first impressions

Nancy: This is the second book in our batch that was entered in the competition with major formatting issues. Sadly, I couldn’t quite connect to this book, and it wasn’t because of the aforementioned formatting problems. It was the prose and scant worldbuilding. This could be due to this book being a standalone sequel in an expanded book universe. You don’t need to read the prior books, but the reader will feel a bit confused at times.

The beginning of the novel focuses on two agents tasked with bringing six humans called the Mullan Clan to a mysterious colonized planet. While the book barely skims through the society in the city domes (it is pretty dreadful, a bit like the Minority Report film), most of the 30% of the story is how the Mullens drink artificial beer and make jokes. They are quite stereotypical American rednecks that speak with a strong ‘Murican accent. Both agents wear translator devices but the prose keeps the accents untouched. I sometimes became distracted reading the dialogue speeches (most of it being unessential for the overall plot). By itself, retaining the accent would be ok, but the scant worldbuilding and filler chapters that dragged on felt very distracting. At the 30% of the novel, the main conflict has no signs of starting yet. Readers that enjoy redneck characters visiting futuristic societies will enjoy this read. (N)

Katherine: Definitely in third-person omniscient and this can be jarring sometimes, especially when switching between characters in different locations without a scene break. There isn’t a well-enough-defined narrator to make it work. I didn’t quite follow what was going on as a result. Incorrectly uses actions as speech tags in terms of capitalisation and punctuation and uses many said-isms. I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters or compelled by the plot.

I hate Vallonnee as a character. Pretentious, likes saying random lines in French, and tortures people without even asking her questions first. Not feeling connected to any of these characters, I found the whole book a real struggle. By 18% Vallonnee had at least been jumped because of a warrant out against her, but she immediately dealt with her attackers, so it didn’t feel like she was in much danger.

The setup of the world is fairly cool, and there is a mystery in what the company wants with these descendants of King Mullan that it’s sending to Orbem Novis. We have seen-as-backwards people living in the environmentally damaged wilderness, and high-tech cities where no one needs to work and lots are addicted to VR. Old families still have power and agents work a bit like ronin (they don’t seem much like ronin to me, mind). I dropped it because I just wasn’t finding it interesting. (N)

Claire: The strong American accents of the Earth characters were confusing and hard to read. I struggled to understand it. I know the aim was to show that they spoke with a strong accent, but it made it hard for me to enjoy the book as I was having to mentally translate the dialogue. I only read the first 15% as I found this so hard to read – I usually prefer audiobooks that have this sort of writing style.

Not much seemed to happen. There were lots of discussions about artificial food, and Rand and Vallonnee were annoying and condescending. The romance scenes between them also felt flat to me. (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.