What I’m Reading: Edge of Oblivion by Joshua A. Johnston

When a great evil attacks his interplanetary Confederacy, Naval Commander Jared Carter is sent not to the front lines, but to chase down ancient religious artifacts that may hold the key to destroying the new enemy.

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My copy, which I won in a giveaway.

After reading the back cover copy for Edge of Oblivion, I was really excited to read it. It sounded so interesting. While that proved to be true, it unfortunately did disappoint me a little. More below.

The Story: Many years in the future, Earth’s history has been lost during a mysterious dark age. Malum, a planet-sized ship in service of “the Master,” appears on the edge of Confederal space and works its way in, vaporizing people and ships as it goes. Nothing in the Confederal Navy can make a dent in Malum, let alone defeat it. So the Navy’s higher-ups send interceptor commander Jared Carter off chasing the only lead they have: a fragment of an ancient religious text which contains the same compound as Malum’s hull. Jared Carter and his crew chase that lead across several different planets and ultimately up to Malum itself.

I thought the premise was the best part of this book. The storyworld (or worlds; this is a space opera, like Star Trek and Star Wars) was beautifully developed, particularly the history of the Confederacy. I’ll discuss that more later on. The story of the interceptor crew chasing down an old, forbidden religion in a time when religion is looked down on was also interesting. The pacing was perfect, keeping me hooked through action and reaction scenes. And the theme (hope) was woven in subtly at the beginning through all the despair and became more obvious at the end, which I liked.

The Characters: The principal characters were Jared Carter, his interceptor’s crew, and the religious men who have the all-important text fragments. One of those men, Nho, stays with the crew after being rescued by them and becomes a mentor of sorts. He was my favorite character, probably because he was the best-developed, although I also liked Vetta and Darel, a couple of the alien crew members. All the characters seemed a bit underdeveloped at first, but they were revealed more later on. Jared, the protagonist, felt particularly bland to me; although he got slightly more interesting later on, he still wasn’t as compelling as Nho or Vetta. I’m hopeful that he’ll get more interesting in subsequent books (this is the first of a series).

The Writing: This is where I had my biggest problems with this book. The story was well plotted, but there were various errors in the way it was told. Mainly, there was a lot of telling rather than showing, in a couple ways. A lot of telling words were used (“Jared saw,” “Jared wanted,” “Jared thought,” etc.), rather than showing the reader what was going on inside Jared’s head. There was also a lot of infodumping, sometimes for no apparent reason, as when a chapter started with several paragraphs on the ways pirates might track a ship in space. (This did not turn out to foreshadow any event later on.) Characters’ backstory was also infodumped in several places, and there was a lot of contrived dialogue used to convey information. None of that got in the way of the action scenes, though.

Overall: Edge of Oblivion is an interesting book with an original premise, but the message of hope in Christ would have been much stronger had the writing been stronger and the characters more interesting. This was a debut novel, so I’m hopeful that things will improve in the rest of the series. It is worth the read for the story’s sake alone.

What do you think? Have you ever read a space opera? Have you read Edge of Oblivion? Did you enjoy it? Tell me in the comments!

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