Dissolution of Peace – by Richard Flores IV
There’s a secret to Richard Flores IV’s debut novel, Dissolution of Peace. Something I didn’t catch onto until about halfway through. And one I’ll share with you now.
Despite the cover of this book, showing an imposing interplanetary warship looming through space, this book isn’t about space ships. Despite the tag line of “The line has been drawn; who will cross first?”, this book isn’t about politics. That’s not to say these features don’t portray prominently in the story, because they do. A reader (like myself) might even be tempted to say this novel is about love, but even that would be wrong. Or at the very least, misleading.
Dissolution of Peace is about the human bond.
Not just any bond, either. Bonds formed casually are quickly lost in this story. No, this novel features bonds formed under fire. Hardened to diamonds. The absolute strength and resolution that makes up the connections between a handful of people. Bonds and affinities that prove strong enough to survive a war.
And maybe even start one.
At the surface, Flores crafts a compelling tale set an untold number of generations in the future. Mankind has formed a unified Earth government and expanded its reaches out into the solar system. The moon has a permanent population. Mars has been terraformed. The first few vessels have dared to venture out beyond the reaches of our mother star.
Of course, being the humans we are, bad things happen. Civilizations grow apart from one another. Governments disagree. The cloak and dagger stories start fast and furious, and in this case, dabble in consequences heated enough to send the governments of two planets headlong at one another.
The casual reader will be tempted to make comparisons of this novel to other mainstream science fiction operas, and for the most part, they would be correct. The verbiage used in this novel feels right at home with anyone that has seen an episode of Star Trek. There’s a bridge and there’s engineering. There’s a sick bay and shuttle deck. Comfortable words that don’t dare to venture too far into the realm of military application nor nerd fanboyism. This book is an approachable novel for anyone with an interest in casual science fiction but doesn’t want to get lost in military tactics, government structure, and hardcore spacial relativity. Anyone can pick this book up and enjoy it to its full, regardless of whether he or she is a science fiction fan.
But all of this sci-fi talk pales when Flores pulls out his trump card. What keeps the reader turning the page is his ability to weave character development.
Human bonds don’t form on their own. Flores paints with his characters, showing a solid evolution in the three main characters of this story over the course of the whole novel (arguably four, if you count the main villain, but I don’t in this case). There is a love story to Dissolution of Peace. Two of them, really. Both follow a similar arch of self-discovery over the course of 49 chapters that leads to a natural conclusion for one, and a bit of a bitter-sweet stalemate on the other.
All of that would account for nothing, though, if there wasn’t a compelling story to drive these characters forward. And believe me, there is. A lot happens in this book. I do mean a lot. This story details the prelude to a war and the desperate attempt of one warship to prevent it. The story is constantly moving. The scene is constantly changing. Events unfold following a natural progression that is easy to digest and believe. Flores captures a portrait of an entire solar system from the lonely eyes of one crew.
However, this is a debut novel. And like most debut novels, there are some qualms.
The biggest issue is one of perspective. This story is not meant to be an action-thriller. As such, when combat occurs between massive warships, it happens in a detached fashion. Most of the time, combat is described by the conversations and outbursts of the bridge crew as it is happening.
As a result, the reader is subjected to rapidly-changing topics and a lot of second-hand observation. Maybe another character was needed. One that piloted one of the nameless fighters casually mentioned during combat. One that could visually witness the laser blasts ripping into the hull or kamikazi transports nose-diving into the launch bay. Something that would have let the reader observe the actual combat instead of hearing about it from bridge officers.
A second issue is pacing. This is a blisteringly-fast story, especially through the last two acts. The author weaves a tale of politics bridging four governments and one rogue terrorist. A vast task, and as a result, this story goes by awfully quick. This is especially true toward the end, where events plunge the main characters through the final act without ever offering a moment for the reader to get his bearings. It almost feels like there was a checklist of events Flores had to get into the story while straining to meet a deadline. Events didn’t always flow from one point to the next, and occasionally I would start a chapter and wonder if I had skipped a section previously.
In addition, Dissolution of Peace marches to a set pattern. This story follows a very familiar convention in space opera. Nothing in this story will challenge a reader’s thinking. At no point does this story take any big risks as far as storytelling. He touches on the ideas of terrorism and drug cartels in the future, and I would have liked to have seen more of that. As it is, this book is a very safe science-fiction story that won’t cause the reader to take any leaps of faith, and I would have liked to see Flores stretch it a bit further.
Dissolution of Peace does exactly what it promises – it tells an intriguing story of political tension. It sets the game board by showing you two sides of humanity and then drops a giant stone right dab in the middle, skewing the lines in every direction. Flores’ debut novel introduces a cast of characters you can’t help but care about and then shows you the agony they must endure for the sake of friendship, loyalty, and – if they’re lucky – love.
There’s a lot to like here. Especially for science fiction fans that want a real story mixed in with their fiction, and not just nameless ships blasting away at one another.
Find Richard Flores IV online at The Flores Factor.
Purchase Dissolution of Peace online at Amazon.com.
|out of 10|
Definite selling point. A good cast of characters that you can’t help but root for, human and alien alike. Believable. Empathetic. Even the bad ones.
Tension. Betrayal. Love. Lust. Politics. Action. This story has it all. When it misses, it’s still entertaining. But when it hits, hull breach!!
Disorienting at times. A lot happens in the final two acts; maybe too much. Some additional “fluff” could have helped regulate the speed of some events.
Doesn’t stray too far from familiar sci-fi. No real risks in storytelling. Could have pushed the envelope just a bit more…
Good voice. Writing style doesn’t overpower the reader. No glaring editorial mistakes. A solid technical outting, especially for a first novel.
|Entertaining (out of 10, not an average)|