Book Review: Discovery of the Saiph (Saiph #1) by P.P. Corcoran
“Your overriding priority is not the discovery of new life; it is the preservation of life on Earth. If, for whatever reason, something does not seem right to you, Captain, you turn tail and head for home.”
Excellent hard science fiction. A not-too-implausible future of mankind discovering we’re not alone and someone else would like to be alone–even if it requires annihilating everyone else. Despite covering an expanse of time and territory, Corcoran develops the personalities of key players to give them depth, even if it is stereotypical.
“The logistics behind establishing a colony are massive, never mind the expense.”
Lots of contacts with previously unknown peoples. Disappointing that first being-to-being contact always occurs off stage while the first ship-to-ship engagement is detailed. The colonization, hardware development and construction, and science breakthroughs are too easy, but propels the story.
“It would be my recommendation that only the deployment of one battleship force would be required in this particular scenario.” Into first combat against an enemy with unknown capabilities? “Only six ships were dispatched to ensure its destruction. That had obviously been a mistake.”
Technical quibbles: “Marco Polo carried the standard twenty [courier rockets]. (Prototype ship on first mission has a “standard” load?) “The keypad is designed for five fingers.” What’s that look like? Telephone key pad? No. Calculator? No. Qwerty keyboard. Not really. Yet this is a big deal for the plot. “Keep us in [the planet’s] shadow as long as possible, putting us above the elliptical plane.” One or the other, but not both. Once you leave the elliptic, you move out from behind an object in the elliptic. “Extra guests for dinner” assumes your food is compatible with the biology of these aliens you just met.
“Penny for them, John?” “Jesus Alec! Are you sure you’re not part ninja?” “No, just very sneaky.”
Typographic quibbles: “broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waste,” “You could literally hear the jaws of the people gathered around the table hit the floor” (really?), “I suppose your right,” “Witsell look as apprehensive as Radford,” “cross deck its information directly to the Viper units,” “Every little would help, thanks.” None of these are particularly bad, but they break the spell of the story, causing readers to stop an consider what Corcoran meant.
“If I have to speak to you again about this matter it will be in person and my voice will be the last human voice you hear, because for the rest of your living, breathing days all you will hear is the sound of penguins mating.” “Motivating the troops again then, sir?”
“Let out a breath that she didn’t know that she had been holding.” Some form of this sentence occurs at least once in most science fiction and fantasy stories. Original decades ago, it’s a cliché now.
“Maybe it’s time to tell the people what we face and see if we really are ready to put the greater good before good of the individual.”