Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Alliance by Matt Medney and John Connelly (book review).

As ‘Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Alliance’ is written by Matt Medney, the current CEO of the legendary ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine, alongside aerospace engineer John Connelly, it does boast some impressive credentials. The first is what is intended to be a series of epic sci-fi adventures, Medney and Connelly throw every sci-fi cliché against the wall to try and set up an exciting narrative whilst simultaneously building a world. There is certainly a creditable ambition to the whole enterprise. Sadly, this ambition is outweighed by numerous narrative and structural flaws that make everything rather hard going.

While on loan to CERN in the year 2086, brilliant astrophysicist Bernard William Hubert is involved in a fatal accident for which he is blamed. His reputation sullied, partly thanks to his insistence that alien interference could have caused the accident, Hubert is shunned by the scientific community and it seems that his professional career is over.

But thanks to the organisation C.O.R.E, Hubert finds himself with a job, albeit one in which he still suffers from the traumas of the past. Now, five years after the CERN accident, Earth is on the verge of interstellar flight. But humanity’s true capability is being kept under wraps by Hubert as he plans to gather a group together to fly to the stars in a much quicker time than was first thought. There, he hopes to prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life and his innocence in the CERN disaster.

Unbeknownst to Hubert, extra-terrestrial life does indeed exist and, across the galaxy, member species of the Galactic Star Alliance keep an eye on the Earth. After an unauthorised incursion reveals the return of an ancient terrorist, the members of the GSA must meet to determine their next course of action. As Hubert brings together his merry band intrepid of eclectic team-members, including a woman who blames him for her father’s death, the GSA also bring together their disparate species and, across the expanse of the galaxy, fate looks set to deliver an adventure that will change humanity forever.

The bare bones of ‘Beyond Kuiper’ are of a rollicking if rather derivative adventure. There’s the intrepid and wronged hero who gathers a set of eclectic personalities to go on a dangerous mission. There’s an old enemy come back to shake the balance of power in the galaxy. There’s the intrigue and politics and fragile alliances amongst plenty of action. But the familiar plot and set-up continually drift into the arena of the hackneyed. Medney and Connelly’s have a tin ear for dialogue and lack of depth in characterisation. All the characters continually drown in either exposition or strain to offer exchanges that are meant to be emotional but are either silly, portentous or both.

Particularly egregious is the consistent use of pop-culture references which are shoehorned throughout the narrative and used by humans and aliens alike, the latter with the excuse that they have been ‘monitoring Earth’. By the umpteenth ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Star Trek’ reference, it just gets grating, especially as it reflects poorly on the society that Medney and Connelly want to laud. All these advances and there’s no culture worth mentioning apart from TV shows more than 100 years old?

The world-building is also clunky, with constant footnotes a distraction. Did you know a human ‘second’ is a ‘nolaprike’ for the GSA? No, neither did I and I didn’t really want to and the feeling that they’re just making up silly words. There’s no sense of a lived in universe, a growing and changing eco-sphere in which the characters can develop. Everything is a mish-mash of half thought out ideas and recycled cultural references.

Needless to say, ‘Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Alliance’ doesn’t exactly fill one with anticipation for future offerings from the series, though the story does gather some momentum near the end before coming to a dead and rather unsatisfying stop. If Medney and Connelly can pull back on the pop-culture references and focus on character then maybe there is hope for Hubert and his eventual meeting with the GSA.

Laurence Boyce

March 2021

(pub: pub: Heavy Metal Magazine, 2020. 330 page illustrated softcover. Price: £22.99 (UK). ISBN: 9781947784192)

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Laurence Boyce

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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