Talisman Of Earth by A.S. Deller (book review).

May 1, 2018 | By | Reply More

‘Talisman Of Earth’ is the debut book from the author A.S. Deller, so I’m not going to be as hard on it as I might. Why am I saying that? Well the PR blurb about the book says, ‘Flung thousands of light years distant in a terrible accident, the crew of the Talisman must make their way back to Earth by crossing a vast area of hostile space.’ Hmmmm, haven’t we seen that before with ‘Star Trek: Voyager’? Indeed, we have.

Voyager was commanded by the feisty Captain Kathryn Janeway while the Talisman is commanded by the equally feisty Captain Reina Lancer, also female. There are other similarities but, thankfully, there are differences. Perhaps the biggest one is the ship’s computer which on the Talisman is a full-blown AI which can actually think for itself.

Before chapter 1, we have a prologue where a young girl and her mother accompany their father to the space port on Mars. He’s the second-in-command and is leaving for a tour of duty. There’s a bit of a description about the Martian scenery and that is it. We don’t know the father’s name at this point or why this is significant. I shall have more to say about the prologue further on.

In between the prologue ending and chapter 1 starting, Mars has been attacked by Valgon battleships of the Alliance. These being the Valgons, a race of giant crab-like beings and the Malign, a race of sentient machines. In a subsequent engagement with the Alliance near Mars, the Talisman is sucked into a collapsing Alliance wormhole and becomes stranded over 10,000 light years from Earth, deep behind enemy lines in Alliance territory. It has been on its way back to Earth for 4 years when we catch up to it in chapter 1.

The Talisman is essentially a science vessel and lightly armed with a crew complement of about 100. It wasn’t designed for missions spanning many years so, after 4 years, its suffering a bit of wear and tear. In fact, it’s falling apart and its only through the ingenuity of her crew that they are still alive and heading home. All very Voyager but there are differences. For one thing, the Talisman has its own sentient AI called Gulliver. I like the way the author portrays the AI.

I think there are more aliens amongst the crew of the Talisman then there were in the Voyager. One of the aliens, Lieutenant Grekkon Rax, is a huge, olive-tinged Kennek with heavily muscled arms. The Kenneks are saurian which makes a nice change from human-shaped and human-sized aliens we have become used to. There are also some bio-engineered humans such as Chief Engineer Falken, who is almost seven feet tall, thin but muscular, with feet that have finger-like toes and opposable fifth ‘thumb’. She has been designed for working in low to zero g environments.

In the first few chapters, nothing much happens other than bits of the ship failing, but we are introduced to various members of the crew and their back stories. After the first half a dozen, it does get a bit repetitive, even if it’s used to give us all the details of how the Earth’s United Powers managed to join the League of Kindred Worlds. We also learn who the mysterious father figure on Mars in the prologue is. All very nice but rather routine.

The action doesn’t really get going until chapter 14 but, as there’s 50 chapters, there’s plenty of room to get a good plot going. If we confine ourselves to the crew of the Talisman and their counter-parts in the enemy alliance, then it’s not a bad plot at all. The Talisman detect an SOS signal from one of the alien worlds that they come across as they flee homeward. Desperately in need of supplies and materials, they decide to investigate. Of course, it’s an Alliance trap but what exactly is the trap? The author shows some cunning here and I’m not going to give out any spoilers.

Dealing with the consequences of answering the SOS takes up the rest of the book except for chapters 31, 32 and 33. They are set on Earth and deal with Captain Lancer’s extremely wealthy foster parent as he tries to get approval to put together a mission to go and search for the Talisman. I’m not sure why it’s here as it breaks the flow of the story. I suppose it’s setting the scene for a follow-up book.

I should perhaps mention that the author doesn’t pull any punches when the action starts. The characters aren’t invulnerable and some of them do die. Talisman of Earth ends at a logical point and, while they are out of immediate danger, they still have a long way to go. There are quite a few loose ends to tie up and perhaps that rescue mission from Earth will show up.

I have some issues with the book. The first is with the Valgons. They are such a merciless, bloodthirsty race it’s difficult to see how they ever became a space-faring, technical race. Technical advances usually require co-operation and it’s difficult to see the Valgons doing that. There’s also no plausible reason why the Malign continue their association with the Valgons. They would appear to be technically superior but serve the Valgons.

With a bit of arithmetic, it’s possible to work out the FTL speed of the Talisman, which works out to be about 67 times faster than the speed of light. Now this sounds rather fast but, in galactic terms, it’s really rather slow. At that speed, it would take just under 1,500 years to get from one edge of the Milky Way to the other. The Valgons get around this by using a series of wormholes conveniently left over by a long dead race of aliens.

Let’s go back and look again at that prologue for my biggest gripe about this book. There’s a typo in the second paragraph: ‘This left their one fusion reactor to power the maglev rain system and the launchway.’ I’m pretty certain he means maglev train. This may seem petty but there are lots of these throughout the book. It gets to be annoying after a while.

Having read ‘Talisman Of Earth’, I can say that the story is a good one with enough original content to distinguish it from Voyager. It certainly merits the second book just to wrap up the loose ends. If A.S. Deller gets down to writing the second volume, I do hope he invests in an editor and a proof reader. A working table of contents without a typo in sight would add to the readers pleasure of a good story.

Andy Whitaker

May 2018

(pub: A.S. Deller. 395 page ebook. Price: £ 2.43 (UK). ASIN: B06WVXCP9K)

check out website: www.amazon.co.uk/Talisman-Earth-S-Deller-ebook/dp/B06WVXCP9K

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi

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About AndyWhitaker

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties.

My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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