A Pale Light in the Black

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Mar 2020

Member Reviews

This book was good. I love space operas. I enjoyed the military and sci-fi aspect of the book, could not put the book down.  This book follows a crew apart of a military group call NeoG who patrol space, and the missions they do along with them wanting to win a competition and escape bad guys. 
I really enjoyed the technology and futuristic-ness of this book, and the characters were what drew me in. Loved the diverseness of each character. Can't wait to read more by this author.
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Although this book never connected with me, I can see why it is rated well among readers.  More soap opera than space opera, it has all the 'feelz':  the men are full of heart and the women kick ass, and they come from all nationalities and backgrounds and orientations.  But none of these felt like real people: methodically constructed caricatures, each ticking off a LGBQTA or interracial check list to make sure you understood that it's a brave new world out there. I ended up skimming through the competition scenes and focused mostly on the space/sci fi aspects since those were what interested me most.

Story: Zuma's Ghost is a NeoG [think Coast Guard] vessel with a varied crew.  Maxine Carmichael arrives to take over the position of second in command, replacing a beloved crew member who received a promotion.  She will have to learn to fit in with the varied personalities as well as come up to speed on the prestigious Boarding Games competition to help the crew turn a second place finish last event to a first place this event.  Along the way, she will  come across a conspiracy that will affect her affluent family directly.

There are two driving plots to the story:  they want to win the competition this time for the NEOG force (they came in second previously) and they are uncovering a lot of strange occurrences that lead to uncovering a massive corporate conspiracy.  The main characters are Maxine Carmichael and Petty Officer Jenks.  Carmichael comes from an affluent family (they invented a serum that prolongs life) and Jenks comes from the streets and knows only fighting for survival.  One is brusque and brash, the other uptight and methodical.  Also included are the captain, Rosa, whose religion forbids going to space but she is there anyway while her wife takes care of their children planetside. Nika Vagin is Jenk's adopted beloved brother - and the person Maxine is replacing. And then several other diverse crew members, each with their own quirks (including the resident data hacker expert). Much of the humor comes from Jenk's irreverence to authority and others.

I think many will enjoy the camaraderie of people with so much diversity coming together and working as a unified team.  Because Max takes up a chunk of the POV of the novel, we see the crew through her eyes as she comes to meet them, gets to know them better, and becomes close friends with them. How she wins each one over is a lot of the crux of the personal side of the story.  Meanwhile, there are space boardings of seized ships, some battles, and of course the martial activities of the Boarding Games.  It's a book with a lot of positivity and 'fist bumping' type of friendships in the NEOG space force.  

Although I will not be continuing with the series, I do feel many will enjoy this book. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
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A Pale Light in the Black follows the crew of Zuma’s Ghost, who are members of the Near-Earth Orbital Guard (NeoG), a branch of the military akin to the Coast Guard… in space. These characters are the highlight of the story. First off, they’re diverse, representing a variety of sexualities, gender identities, religions, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. They’re also extremely likable. I’m a sucker for friendly team dynamics and I got plenty of that here.

It’s a good thing this book has such a strong cast because it’s extremely character-driven. I fell in love with Max, Rosa, and Jenks (our three main characters) and enjoyed witnessing their personal and relationship development. My only complaint is the dialogue. It occasionally struck me as slightly stilted, particularly during tense or emotional moments. The romance was unremarkable.

The story was well-paced and revolves around two subplots. In subplot one, Zuma’s Ghost is competing in the Boarding Games, an annual competition between the branches of the military, and hopes to take home NeoG’s first ever win. Meanwhile, subplot two is a mystery that builds gradually from a series of coincidences to a full-blown conspiracy. I preferred the first subplot; it seems Wagers isn’t much of a mystery writer. The ending was rushed and the evil mastermind behind it all was underwhelming.

Aside from the characters, what I liked best about this book was the world building. The future Wagers imagines is immersive and easy to envision. The focus is mostly on military life, which isn’t usually my cup of tea, but I ended up really enjoying it. A few concepts could have been introduced more gradually and naturally, but this is me being nitpicky. In many ways, A Pale Light in the Black reminds me of the Star Trek TV shows. It’s fun, lighthearted, team-based and, yes, a little cheesy. I love me some Star Trek so it’s no wonder I ended up enjoying this book.

A Pale Light in the Black is a story with a lot of heart, enough to make up for at least some of the technical flaws. I’m eager to go back and read Wagers’ previous work and I hope she continues the NEO-G series.
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This has a good cast, a fun plot with sub-plots, and good action. A pretty enjoyable space opera. This is my first Wagers book, but it's obvious she has a great imagination and knows how to spin a good tale. 

I really appreciate the copy for review!
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This is a good book. I really enjoyed it. The characters are well developed and the story is packed with action and adventure. The author does a great job delivering a story with a solid plot and interesting subplots.
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Pale Light in the Black by K. B. Wagers, a great fun read. Max Carmichael has to bear the burden of the family name as well as the disgruntlement of her family due to her choice to join the NEO vs the Navy. Mysterious forces show up and fights loom large in this great book.
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