Available in both eBook and print The Unmoving Stars (May 2, 2016) by author Dave Creek is the 3rd installment of The Great Human War series “that pits humanity against itself” following the first book, A Crowd of Stars (October 9, 2016, winner of the 2016 Best SF Novel Imadjinn Award) and the sequel, The Fallen Sun (April 26, 2017).
In the year 2103, the maiden voyage of the research starship Shen Kuo is attacked just moments after it emerges from its first stardrive test jump near the planet Jupiter. Captain Kierman Taylor orders a second jump to evade more damage, but a second volley hits the ship just as it slips away causing even more destruction. When the Shen Kuo emerges from its second jump, a large number of crew members are dead or injured and the ship’s engines are severely damaged. Oh, and they find themselves stranded over ten-thousand light-years away from home. A return trip that would take them many millennia to return home, even with their advanced technology.
The Unmoving Stars begins with heart-pounding tension from the first page but soon slows to a more manageably-quick pace once the plot unfolds. At a scant 140 pages in length (electronic review copy), this is a very easy and quick read, a surprise seeing that the setting comfortably spans nearly half a decade. Also, being the third book of a series, the story unfolded smoothly with very little backstory, leaving readers with just enough mystery to maybe want to go back and read the other two books without making this current action too confusing. Admittedly, having not read the first two installments, diving in at book three did instill in me some undeserved doubt about this one. It seems that creating a standalone book within a series is a difficult if not often ignored practice for many writers today, but Creek has provided a nice example of how it can be done.
Though the large cast of characters and their diverse personalities and ethnicities is what stimulates the drama in this story, it is the social implications of being so far from home and the cultural struggles found in everyday characteristics of the human condition that sets the overall tone. Unlike other works involving lost starships (this book has been compared to Star Trek Voyager and Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet) where military protocol often dictates decorum, a mixture of authorities will inevitably incite conflict. The unique recipe of characters aboard the Shen Kuo is what separates this story from the others. On the down side, such a vast list of characters can also become confusing for some readers and turn them away.
It should also be pointed out that the name Shen Kuo is an interesting, if not spot-on symbolic choice for Creek to choose for this ship. Shen Kuo was a renowned Han Chinese thinker from the 11th century Song dynasty. Along with a strong political influence, his scientific studies included areas of mathematics, agronomy, and astronomy to name a few. This, and having been credited with the introduction of the magnetic needle used in navigational compasses is the perfect analogy to be tied with a space faring vessel lost so far from home whose crew must rely on their limited knowledge and resources to survive.
The Unmoving Stars is a fast-paced story that will take readers thousands of light-years away to discover that man’s worst enemy is still man.