2012; 295 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Science Fiction. Overall Rating : 4½*/10.
John Epcott is the only survivor of a devastating pandemic that swept across Earth. Fortuitously, a Junian spaceship has picked him up and taken him back to their home planet. It’s a pleasant place; John can breathe the air and interact with the sentient, humanoid Junians.
But it isn’t home.
What’s To Like...
Structurally, Dawnwind : Last Man Standing reminded me of Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked. The storyline is segmented, with gaps in the timeline. George R. Shirer “star-dates” each jump, so it’s not really confusing. Just different. The segments can be briefly called New Arrival, Lonely, Starship Crisis, Revenge, and Dawnwind. “Dawnwind” is the name of a starship, BTW.
The world-building could be better done. The planet Juni bears a remarkable resemblance to Earth. Things and terms such as “1600 hrs.”, trains, weddings, tattoos, bookstores, audio books, regular books, the phrase “folks ‘round here’, porcelain dolls, pillows, and snowballs are all native to Juni. And all galactic races apparently speak English. It felt like John could’ve been plopped down in a place like Scotland and have experienced a greater culture shock.
The Junians are not very different from Terrestrials as well, save for their blue skin (smurfs? Na’vi?), the nerve endings in their hair, and their penchant for painted eyes. Other sentient races are given short shrift.
There are a slew of characters, and George R. Shirer enjoys giving them all names and different eye-painting colors for you to make note of. Don’t bother. Most of them are limited to one-and-done roles.
There are a couple cusswords and a few suggestive phrases, but nothing worthy of keeping this off the YA shelves. The storytelling gets better as the book rolls on, with the “Dawnwind” segment by far the most interesting. That is, until. . .well, more about that in a bit.
“Ah. You’re attracted to me.”
“What? No! I mean. . .”
She glared at him. “You should choose your next words very carefully.”
“It’s not my virtue that I’m worried about.”
“Ah! So you are attracted to me.”
“Uqqex, it’s been over six years since I’ve had sex with anyone. At this point, trees are starting to look attractive to me.”
“I sincerely hope that last statement was exaggeration.” (loc. 3429)
Cleric Til drifted over to the group. Her multicolored scarf was wound around her right arm. She swept the small group with her gaze, and smiled. “More survivors. Thank the pantheon.”
“I’d be more thankful, Cleric, if the gods hadn’t seen fit to blow up half the ship,” said Sebo, blankly.
“The gods don’t do everything, guardsman,” chided Til. “If you think they do, then you should come to the temple more often.” (loc. 5336)
Dawnwind : Last Man Standing sells for $2.99 at Amazon. George R. Shirer has one other full-length novel, The Marvelous Land of Ap, also for $2.99; and seven Short Stories, each for $0.99.
”Yazat’s balls!” (loc. 3161)
The fact that Juni and Earth are so much alike is a serious weakness. Sci-Fi readers are looking for escapism; if we want to read a book set in our familiar world, we’ll pick up Charles Dickens or something. But this is fixable.
What isn’t forgivable is the cliffhanger ending. Dawnwind : Last Man Standing feels like a prequel to a whole series, giving us the back-story for our plucky hero, whether we wanted it or not.
Okay fine. But there is no sequel, and therefore the cliffhanger climax just means you wasted your time reading a story that has no ending, and possibly never will. Better to have read something else. Anything else. Even (bleh) Dickens.
4½ Stars. Add ½ star if sequels are ever written and published, and this prequel becomes a free download to get you hooked on the series. FWIW, if you’re looking for a book that gets this genre right, try C.E. Stalbaum’s The Spider and The Fly, reviewed here. At the time of this posting, it is available for free for the Kindle.