By Joshua Dalzelle
I would like to start by giving a shout-out to Pat Neal for being the first of my readers to also send me a book recommendation! To be precise, he sent me three and this was the first one I picked. Given that he knows I provide my feedback honestly in my reviews based on what I actually think, I will not be holding back any complaints or exaggerating any compliments. The review is untainted. However Pat is as sassy as me (if not more so) and is not easily offended (said so himself), so I dare say he will be just fine.
And with that, let’s begin.
Jason Burke is a retired air force veteran content to spend the rest of his days isolated in the mountains. Haunted by nightmares of war, he is startled awake, like so many other nights, and finds himself drenched in sweat unable to return to sleep. Shortly after, Jason hears a humming noise he believes to be imaginary. However, the hum intensifies to a roaring blast that shakes his whole cabin. Armed with an AR-14, he goes outside to discover a flaming aircraft headed for a crash-landing nearby. Concerned the passengers may be injured, he moves swiftly in the direction of the wreckage to see if anyone needs assistance. However, what he finds is no plane crash and there is no one for him to assist.
Jason soon embarks on a journey he neither wanted nor asked for. Desperately wishing to return home, he encounters alien life unseen by any human before him and becomes the first human to be seen by any alien. Jason soon realizes that he must keep the location of Earth a secret as he dives head first into the shady underworld of space. His only goal is to stay alive long enough to see his cabin again.
I liked that the author jumps right into the story, and the book overall was a quick read. Were it not for some R-rated cursing, I honestly could have pegged this as a children’s story. Take that as you will. I don’t think that is a particularly negative comment given Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were both children’s stories and completely badass, but this is not anything like either of those stories. This one is remarkably simple.
One of the main reasons the story feels simple is because Jason fits the description of a Mary Sue. He’s a character that everything in the story revolves around. Characters flock to him. He has the universe on his side. He’s an unstoppable force, and those factors mean he is rendered less interesting than he otherwise could have been. He’s interesting from the perspective that he is the protagonist, but that’s not saying much because he is the only perspective we ever get.
I thought Jason Burke was a dumbass. How’s that for candor? At the beginning of the book, and frankly through at least half the story, I thought he was impulsive, reckless, and occasionally overly macho. He’s not someone I could particularly relate to, as I tend to be on the opposite spectrum of any of those traits. Knowing that clash in personality, I realized why I was frustrated with his demeanor and outlook on his situation. I grew to like him more as the story progressed, but he will never be a favorite of mine. Additionally, his “heroic distinction” is that he is one of the only humans that would board an unknown, foreign vessel while armed. He acknowledges as much. At least he had enough hindsight to think, “Huh, maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.” But hey, Jason’s got the protagonist trait of feeling an unchallengeable “call to adventure” down to a science.
Don’t get me wrong. Overall, I would say this is a fun read and perhaps I’m being overly critical. I would definitely read one of the next books in the series because I believe the adventures that don’t center on building Jason’s familiarity with aliens and space are probably pretty engaging. Please consider that, in this story, at least a third of the adventure is our protagonist with only one other character. That dynamic doesn’t change much until about halfway through the book when the number of characters increases dramatically. That’s when things start getting fun because the later characters have a lot more personality albeit they fit tropes and reminded me a lot of the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, I love rag-tag team dynamics that bring characters together that you don’t think would mesh but somehow they do. You can do a lot with those stories even if they are common.
On a side note, Omega Rising has only one named female character and she doesn’t even make an appearance. There’s an unnamed female character as well, but I debated whether she was even worth mentioning. Funny enough, the lack of women in the story doesn’t even bother me. I just thought it was interesting. I don’t mind a book with a cast of all male characters. I guess I was just surprised because you don’t see those anymore. The fact that female characters weren’t present had the added benefit of not forcing a romance into the story where it didn’t fit. Finally, a book that lacks a subplot about the main character trying to get laid! Amazing! I actually love that.
One-sentence summary: the book is about a bunch of misfits that come together to do something.
How’s that for a synopsis?
Overall rating: 3.5