Audiobook Series Review: Star Force by B. V. Larson

28 01 2013

Back when I first started to listen to audiobooks, one of my favorite things to do was to discover a series, particularly a long running or completed series, and listen to them from start to finish. Yet, when I began blogging more, I sort of fell away from this practice. Part of the reason was that I had listened to so many series, that I was at the point where much of my listening was grabbing the newest edition of a series I already loved. I also found, becoming more active on social networks and following publishers and bloggers more directly, I would become excited about the new releases. Another issue I have is that I find that writing reviews for the 13th edition and keeping it fresh and interesting is a challenge. Yet, I miss the series listen. Last year, audible released the complete Chronicles of Amber Series and I decided that instead of listening to each one and reviewing it, I would listen to both 5 book Cycles and review them as complete works. I quite enjoyed the act of listening to five books within the series back to back, then writing about them as a complete work. Going through my To Be Read Pile I have quite a few series that I would like to finish up, and scanning through Audible’s backlists I have discovered series I would like to take on. So, one of my blogger resolutions this year was to complete a few series I am only about halfway through, and take on some new series, giving them the “Series Review” treatment. While this may mean a few less reviews on the blog and maybe some longer gaps between posts, I know I have plenty of content on this blog to keep people happy.

The Star Force Series

The Star Force series is a military science fiction series that centers on one man, Kyle Riggs, a former Computer Science Professor who gets swept up in an intergalactic struggle between biotic and robotic entities. As a founding member of earth’s Star Force, a military political entity, Kyle Riggs uses his ability to communicate in the language of computers and his knack for problem solving to utilize alien technology to battle a race of super robots bent on the extinction of all organic creatures. Along the way he interacts with various new alien species, some as enemies and some as allies, while attempting to keep Earth safe.

There are a lot of things I loved about the Star Force serious, and a lot of things I hated. One of my major issues with Military Science Fiction, is I tend to like the build up more then the payoff. I love the logistical elements of this series, as Kyle Riggs comes up with newer forms of weaponry. It’s fascinating how he uses the technology in interesting new ways. I also like the diplomatic elements, despite some problematic issues. Along the way, Riggs must deal with his counterpart in Star Force, a piratical egomaniacal Fleet Commander named Crowe, who only keeps Riggs around because he needs him. This constant struggle between two bigger than life characters is interesting, but frustratingly repetitive. The real fascinating ideas comes from Riggs dealing with the alien societies, all of whom have their own biological imperatives. From the warrior worm race who speak in pictographs, to the herd like centaurs, who value honor above all things, Riggs must manipulate each species to get them to do what he wants. He also must deal with Robotic entities, like the enemy Macros, the Nanos, who goal is to defeat the Macros whatever the cost, and Marvin, a robotic ally that often does more harm than good, when he isn’t saving all their lives.

Yet, this series is ripe with frustrations for the reader. The entire series is told from the perception of one character, Kyle Riggs. And while he’s a well conceived character, those around him tend to become annoyances or caricatures, there only to serve his needs. Riggs is the type of leader who simply cannot get the best out of those around him, except by throwing himself into the fire. It’s a frustrating personality trait that sole purpose is to give the reader a front row perspective on everything. There is absolutely no delegation on any level, and it makes the narrative suffer. I think Larson would have been better off splitting the Riggs characters into other perspectives, creating close allies, perhaps one who deals with science and technology and another a ground level military leader why Riggs serves as a command figure. The way this series is set up just lacks any feel of plausibility.

Another issues for me is his female characters. There are two main female characters, one who is boning Kyle Riggs, and one who wants to bone Kyle Riggs. Both of these characters started out as competent women, who have been relegated to whiny bitches either jealous of Kyle’s relationship with the other, or resentful of the fact they aren’t getting a piece of his lovin’. While I actually like both of these characters, I tend to enjoy the series more when they are out of the picture. Lastly, the payoff action scenes. Larson writes action well. The strategies of the battles are well thought out. Yet, I find myself losing interest quicker during the action scenes. Part of it is due to the fact that, once again, it’s Kyle Riggs in the mix of things. When not negotiating with aliens, coming up with new scientific developments and devising military strategy, he’s fighting hand to hand against crustaceans, worms and robotic warriors. Also, I must admit, that often my least favorite part of military scifi is the battles. It’s just how I roll I guess.

Yet, it’s not all bad people. Let’s face it, there is a reason I listened to all six audiobooks, nearly 70 hours of audio, within a month’s time. The Star Force series is the ultimate example of popcorn fiction. It’s like a tasty snack that once you eat one, you just need to finish the bag, even if they start to burn your mouth with their excess flavor. Each novel has a set up that just pulls you in. These books are full of crazy aliens, killer robots, mechanical battles stations, teleportation rings, mechanical marine suits, space skateboards, hover tanks and backstabbery, betrayal and paranoia galore. It’s like a big salad full of cheesy science fiction tropes and covered in bacon. I had a heck of a fun time listening to these books. Even with all the problems, and all my frustrations, I can’t wait until the next book of this series comes out.

Narration:

Mark Boyett’s narration is akin to a SyFy television movie. While easy to follow, it’s a bit over the top with clichéd characters and rock ’em sock ’em pacing. Basically, it suits the style of the tale. I wouldn’t want Boyett narrating a touching multigenerational family saga, but a battle between mechanized troops and hover tanks. Well, let em rip. There were some small production issues. Bad pickups that didn’t quite fit in, some volume drops at times, and other little snafus, but for the most part it worked. I found myself enjoying the dialogue intensive moments, and Boyett’s delivery on the robotic and alien characters, but I found the pacing pf the action to be somewhat mind numbing at times. His non-American accents were cartoonish, but, the whole series had a cartoonish feel so that’s not really a complaint. All in all, it was the right narrator for the project, not my favorite but one who can do the job.

 

 

Swarm by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 1)

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs 39 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Swarm is simple, escapist military science fiction fun. Larson writes with a “what the hell, let’s go for it” style that’s reminiscent of a train hopping a track and running into a truck full of fireworks in front of a car full of clowns. Don’t expect lots of depth, but do expect plenty of huge robotic sandworms killing off tons of enhanced super soldiers.

I have previously reviewed this title. Click here for my review.

Grade: B

 

Extinction by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 2)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 52 Min

Quick Thoughts: Extinction moves the focus away from Earth, as Kyle and his marines become the pawns of the Macros, fighting against other biotics in order to assure Earth survival. It is full of some of the most brutal action of the series. It’s keeps the intimate feel the first novel had, while expanding the scope of universe. Definitely moves the series in interesting directions.

Grade: B

 

Rebellion by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 3)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 27 Min

Quick Thoughts: Rebellion may have been my favorite book in the series. Riggs now knows he is fighting a losing battle as allies of the Macros, and that fighting other biotic species only plays into the hands of the true enemies. Riggs must figure out how to take the fight to the Macros, bring the biotic species together and keep earth safe. While still full of actions, questions of strategy and morality take center stage in this transitional novel.

Grade B+

 

Conquest by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 4)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 30 Min

Quick Thoughts: After moving the series in the right direction, Conquest takes a step back and loses a lot of the key elements that I was loving in the earlier books. Now back on Earth, Riggs must figure out a way to keep his home world safe from the Robots retribution. While full of action and hover tanks, Conquest loses the interaction with other species, and the bigger questions of the series. Easily my least favorite Star Force novel.

Grade: C+

 

Battle Station by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 5)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 11 Hrs 43 Min

Quick Thoughts: After the lull in forward progression in Conquest, the series takes off again in Battle Station. Now, Riggs comes to the aid of his new alien allies, fighting a ground war on new planets, and attempting to throw the Macros out of the Eden system. Yet, not everyone is happy with him expending Star Force resources in the aid on aliens. Riggs must deal with internal pressure as he takes the fight to the enemy. Battle Station gets the series back on the right track in a big way.

Grade: B+

Empire by B. V. Larson (Star Force, Bk. 6)

Read by Mark Boyett

Length: 13 Hrs 15 Min

Quick Thoughts: After his victories battling the Macros in distant planets, Kyle Riggs becomes increasingly concerned about what is going on back on Earth. When he didn’t expect is Earth to be a new Empire under the control of an egomaniacal leader. Stuck between two huge Fleets, one full of Robots and the other his fellow humans, Riggs must use the resources and allies he has to keep what he has won safe, without wasting biotic lives needed in the struggles against the macros. Empire keeps the series moving in the right direction and creates an excitement for what is yet to come.

Grade: B+

What Other’s Have Said:

Check out DelicioSciPhi’s Review of the series. who created the excellent cover image!

 

 

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6 responses

28 01 2013
Carl V. Anderson

Spending time on blogs and other social networking really does affect one’s reading in that you are constantly inundated by suggestions from others that sound so good that you want to dive into them ‘right now’! I know my reading has changed significantly since I became a book blogger. Where I might have previously discovered an author and sat down and devoured all their books in a row, the desire to have varied content and keep up with some current releases means that I read differently than before. In fact the only time I’ve gone back to that old manner of reading since I started blogging was last August when I discovered Louise Penny’s mysteries and read all but the latest in a row, one after the other. It was great fun!

Glad you enjoyed these despite their flaws. I haven’t read a great deal of military fiction in comparison to all that is out there but I’ve enjoyed what I have read so far. Just finished William C. Dietz’ latest, Andromeda’s Fall, and will review it for SF Signal soon. It was good. It too had a few flaws but the good parts more than made up for that.

28 01 2013
theguildedearlobe

I’ve read some of Dietz’ Legion of the Damned series, and enjoyed it. It’s one of the series I would like to fit into my schedule. My next plan is to finish the Stainless Steel Rat series in audio.

28 01 2013
deliciosciphi

Sweeeet. An audiobook listener’s blog that appears to have tastes similar to mine. This is truly exciting. Already, you’ve pointed me towards that Scalzi episodic Audible deal. I look forward to seeing what I can find out from you. Keep up the good work.

28 01 2013
deliciosciphi

Oh yeah! Where’s my credit for the picture of all 6 book covers, huh? I spent like… 8 minutes putting that together!

I’ll take continued good reviews from you as payment.

28 01 2013
deliciosciphi

One more thing. I just finished Conquest, only about 15 minutes into Battle Station, and while I do agree with your specific review for about 75% of the book, the last 25% of Conquest, I feel, really at least somewhat made up for it. Kyle Riggs really shines as Kyle Riggs ejecting out of a destroyed spaceship and without missing a beat attacking and taking a macro ship. Though like you said, you don’t really get into the battles, and I guess the last 25% is mostly one big battle.

…and I absolutely love Marvin. I think it (he?) is within the top 10 of my favorite artificial intelligences. “Part robot spaceship, part homeless guy with a shopping cart full of found garbage” or however Larson put it. I think Marvin’s curiosity is inspiring, and I’m glad he’s becoming more of a central character (again, I only just finished Conquest, this might make me biased)

Just my 2 cents.

28 01 2013
theguildedearlobe

I totally meant to give you credit, and it slipped my mind. Remedied.

I love Marvin. What i don’t love is how Riggs handles Marvin. I think he could come up with a more constructive manner than “Oh, shit Marvin is doing something with devastating potential consequences without talking to me first, but I guess he has good reasons.” For someone so good at dealing with the Macros, Worms, Centaurs and Nanos, you’d think he’s figure some better system to deal with Marvin’s quirks.

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