Cover Image: Annihilation Aria

Annihilation Aria

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Member Reviews

While looking for the next book to read, I was quickly taken by this book’s synopsis and fantastic cover art. To me, “exuberant space opera” sounded like just the thing, then they mentioned “salvaging artifacts from dangerous galactic ruins” and I was immediately curious. Painted on a huge canvas that spans light years, this story gallops across fantastic places, lifeforms and action. The plot is a typical yet original tale of uprising against a tyrannical empire, a rather horrid bunch who viciously subjugate all and deal with objectors most harshly. Throw into the mix a good measure of Guardians of the Galaxy and you get this  cool space opera. I liken it to a modern pulp sci-fi romp, designed purely to entertain and delight. I reckon that the author achieved and delivered a book that will appeal to people who adore fun reads. I suggest that this book will rate quite well across a sizeable array of science fiction readers. 

I really enjoyed this. The story is good, delivered well and is very entertaining. The story finishes up leaving a definite path open for further stories, even a prequel to this would be cool to find out more about how things ended up where they are. Some websites list this as the first in series called The Space Operas, so hopefully this is true. I checked out the publisher’s (Parvus Press) catalog and there are some impressive sounding sci-fi and fantasy titles listed there. If this book is any indication, then I’d wager that both the author and whoever publishes his subsequent work will do quite well.
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This was my favorite science fiction title of 2020. Featuring fresh worldbuilding and page-turning action, this series starter offers unique characters that have dimension. I would recommend this for those looking for a less heavy space opera than the complex Expanse series, but with the same relatable characters and high stakes action. Guardians of the Galaxy fans will love this story.
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This had many of the elements of a good space opera and some original ideas, but not the writing to match.  Probably the strongest aspect are the characters, supposedly different species, but really just different personalities with special abilities, but you will be rooting for them.  I thought Lahra's species' ability to wield song as a separate force of nature was quite original.  The overarching idea that a species had tried to erase all evidence of a previous species with themselves was quite an unusual expose of tyranny.  But unfortunately the story sagged and stuttered and didn't hold my interest.  Even though I loved the ancient giant space turtles. The next in the series won't be calling my name.
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Very Guardians of the Galaxy. Eclectic crew of various moral stations with weird and somewhere interesting abilities look to carve out's Firefly at this point. It's a bit of Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy. Not terrible. But definitely not original. Total popcorn book.
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This was an okay read for me. It felt like something I’ve read before but the pacing was nice and it did keep me entertained.
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I really tried to like this book.  It did not grab my attention and keep it. It did not pull me into the world and the incomplete different point of views from the characters did not flow.
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This book feels very much like the descriptions -- very Guardians of the Galaxy with all the schlock that goes along with it (which is great).

I think the pacing is good, the characters are (mostly) believable, and the plot is both personal and galaxy-spanning. Almost every move Max and Lahra made was a logical step to take.

That being said, sometimes it seemed like the author wanted me to feel something that I wasn't really feeling or pushed the story a little too fast a time or two, but never enough to take me out of the story.

I'm glad that it looks like there is a planned follow-up to this; I'm looking forward to it!
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Author Michael R. Underwood published the novel “Annihilation Aria: Book One of the Space Operas” in 2020. Mr. Underwood has published seven novels.

I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story is set in the far future. The primary characters are Earthling Max Walker and his alien wife Lahra Kevain.

Walker and Kevain, along with pilot Wheel, tavel in the ship Kettle looking for artifacts. Put simply, they are treasure hunters. They are desperately trying to stay solvent. Walker is trying to find his way home to Earth while Kevain is searching for the heir to her people’s throne.

While searching for their next ‘treasure’, they are involved in a rebellion. The Vsenk Empire controls most of the galaxy. The ancient artifact the couple find could be the weapon that devastates the Empire. Or it could be a ‘hammer’ that smashes all resistance if it falls into Empire hands.
The Empire will stop at little to posses the artifact.

I enjoyed the 9.5 hours I spent reading this 414-page science fiction novel. I liked the plot with a slightly different approach to Empire and rebelion. This is the second book by Mr. Underwood I have read (the other was Attack of the Geek). His writing style is a little different, but I have enjoyed both of the novels. The cover art is OK, but not the best. I give this novel a 4.2 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

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I received this book via Netgalley. 

There's something awesome about seeing a book grow up. I first read <i>Annihilation Aria</i> as an early draft several years ago. It was a great read even at that early stage and now it's all shiny and published. 

This is pure popcorn scifi--a rollicking good time, with a fast-paced plot and relatable characters, including a bad guy who isn't so bad after all. You have a black man from Earth married to a fierce warrior woman from a decimated planet, their grumpy spaceship pilot, plus archaeology adventures in some loaded-with-traps alien ruins and an evil empire with a super weapon and, and... there's a lot going on here, and it's just so much fun. This is the perfect read to escape from the modern world and everything awful going on.
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Underwood subtitles this a space opera, and that genre clearly inspired him. But I would say that the fantasy line is also quite noticeable here, which is either good or bad depending on your tastes. Underwood does give us a story on a grand scale, and eventually pulls us in to grasping it. But to get there you'll have to wade through a beginning that made me wonder if it would be worth it. Underwood had had months to get to know these characters and places, and I hadn't. That can work for a movie or graphic novel, because the visuals help and you know the length of the medium will force it to become clear quickly. This, though, is a fairly lengthy book and I would have preferred the author draw me into caring about the situation earlier to encourage me that the time investment would be worth it. Ultimately, though, he did just that and it was enjoyable.

Personal sidebar: In our rush to embrace the 1.8% of the world with gender dysphoria, some have chosen to abandon gender-specific pronouns. Rather than using neuter forms, they arbitrarily make a singular character plural. Underwood's usage of pronouns sometimes feels random and became annoying and confusing when a "her" didn't have "hers" but suddenly became a "their."
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A fun, adventurous space opera! This was nowhere near my radar of books, but saw this in Netgalley with kudos from Seanan McGuire and PW, so took a shot. Max the human archeologist, and Lahra, the Genae warrior who sings her magic are the best couple! Together with Wheel, the Atlan pilot, they scavenge for treasures, never thinking that they would find something so important to the history of the universe! It is well paced, filled with action, as well as archeological secrets that would make anyone who loved Indiana Jones want to read this book! And who wouldn't love the gigantic space turtles!  I really want to hear Max and Lahra's origin story, especially more about Max's accidental teleportation from Earth. Can't wait for the next one!
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This took me a very long time to read because I had buddy reads and life busy-ness resulting in me having to keep putting the book down. IMO that's not the best way to read this book - you should probably devour it in two or three sittings, thereby benefitting from the momentum of the plot rather than having to rediscover it every time.


It sounds like mean praise to say 'this did exactly what it said on the tin' but I am honestly being quite warm and effusive. Not every book has to be full of challenge and surprise. Sometimes you want to know exactly what you're getting. It's an unfortunate bit of snobbery which has bled across from people who read literary fiction just because it's literary; that books which hit the tropes of their chosen genres and deliver exactly the dopamine rush a reader wants are somehow inferior. (Imagine this attitude applied to dining out. You don't want every burger or plate of sushi to be an adventure which you may or may not enjoy. If you're looking for familiar food that you enjoy, then you want a burger to fall within a given narrow set of parameters. Similarly, if you order a burger or a steak, you don't want the chef to send you Sea Urchin linguine.) I am aware I have really gone around the houses to avoid seeming to damn this book with faint praise so let's get on.


Underwood says in the acknowledgements that tis book arose from a desire to write something that made him feel like watching Guardians of the Galaxy. And that is what it does. A band of loveable misfits on a unlovely junkyard find of a ship, travel the galaxy, making ends meet by discovering ancient artefacts and selling them. This is no easy task in a galaxy oppressed under the Vsenk empire.


Of the crew, we have:


Max - an archaeologist and linguist from earth who found himself in the wrong galaxy when he accidentally activated an Atlantean artefact.


Lahra - a Genoan bodyguard of the soldier cast, who kicks some serious ass.


Wheel - an Atlan pilot, queer, grumpy and cybernetically enhanced


Cruji - undefined slime exuding beastie, bit like a furbie but with tentacles and empathic. (The ship's cat, kind of.)


The story gets going when the trio discover ancient Atlan artefacts which the Vsenk are keen to get their hands on. Vsenk, by the way, are enormous spacefaring instectile creatures with multiple limbs and tentacles, feathers and a culture that respects only strength in the form of cruelty and conquest. Everything goes down the toilet for the crew of the Kettle and they find themselves on the run with Vsenk agent, Arek, hot on their heels.


I won't spoil the plot but it's a fun space set adventure story peopled with strange non-human creatures, different cultures, and a quest to find out what the artefacts are. It definitely calls to mind Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Firefly and similar space opera adventures. One neat twist is that Lahra's people encourage the manipulation of matter and put heart in flagging troops by singing the songs of her people. This was a nice touch in terms of building the Genai culture and history as well as giving us a science-y type of magic.


This is very light on science. Honestly if you're expecting hard sci-fi, you've got the wrong book. This is first and foremost an adventure story about found family. Descriptions of alien species are via Max's pov and are deliberately a little vague. (The Drell and the Great Migration are my favourite!) My one criticism is that we never really seem to be deep in any of the pov character's heads. I didn't really feel what they felt. Then again, this light and entertaining read is not primarily designed for deep pov and emotional resonance.


All in all a very enjoyable read. Recommended for those who enjoyed Firefly, Star Wars and GotG.
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I regularly read Seanan McGuire’s twitter. She often tweets about ARCs that she has read and enjoyed.  I usually request those books from NetGalley, and I usually enjoy them.  So when I saw Annihilation Aria, by Michael R. Underwood available, I requested an eARC of it.  Sadly, Annihilation Aria did not work for me.  Billed as a space opera, it felt more like space fantasy.  It was long I’m tired tropes and short on new ideas and characterization.  This book was all tell and no show.  Two of the three main characters are supposed to be a married couple in love, but nothing they do ever makes me believe that they’re going steady, let alone married.  The aliens have no distinguishing characteristics to differentiate them from each other.  I was shocked when I found out that this was not the work of a first time author.  In the acknowledgements, Mr. Underwood explains that he was trying to write a novel that recaptured the feel of the movie Guardians of the Galaxy (which to me feels much more cosmic comic than space opera, but I can see that that is a minor distinction).  That made sense, since many of the story beats were lifted directly from that movie.  The author also pats himself on the back for having his male protagonist be a black man from Baltimore, but absolutely nothing about the text made him seem any more than just a cipher, like all of the other characters.  Furthermore, the third main character, not a member of the couple, a character named Wheel (get it? She’s a third wheel!), repeatedly betrays the couple’s trust by keeping massive secrets and nothing ever comes of it! The book is not all bad.  It was mildly diverting but, overall, not worth your time.
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Annihilation Aria was a fun book to read and a great introduction to an imaginative universe with unique aliens.  The main characters are an Earthling named Max, an archaeologist, Lahra a Genae, a species who sing songs which have a tangible effect on their abilities especially when done in chorus, and Wheel, a ship's captain like none other.  Max and Lahra are married, despite being of vastly different origins, and their relationship throughout and that of theirs with Wheel would rival the teamwork and relationships in any number of stories.  Since they're excavating artifacts under the nose of a fascist regime ruled by the horrific Vsenk, it definitely lends itself to comparisons with Star Wars, but besides that it's definitely in it's own universe.

There's a lot of fun, a lot of action, some heartfelt moments, and all that together makes for a very entertaining space opera.

Thanks NetGalley, Parvus Press, and Michael Underwood.
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Annihilation Aria follows the crew of the Kettle, a small, scrappy band of adventurers hunting artifacts. A job takes them to an ancient tomb, where they score several artifacts. While trying to make their escape, however, they're intercepted by a Vsenk patrol ship and lose all but one of the artifacts. Hunted by the Vsenk, an alien species that rules a fascist empire and that evidently wants that artifact very much, the band strives to stay one step ahead and identify what they've got and what to do with it.

This book is kind of like Indiana Jones meets Star Wars, and I love it. It has the same joyful energy of those classic movies, set in a universe of colorfully-imagined aliens. To describe a couple, Lahra is a warrior of a nearly extinct species that basically has magical abilities powered by singing their people's epic historical sagas, and Wheel is a cyborg pilot who can interface with her ship.

Speaking of Lahra, I loved her relationship with her husband, Max (a human archaeologist who accidentally got himself teleported to Lahra's galaxy while investigating an ancient alien artifact on Earth). It was refreshing to read a book in which two of the protagonists have a healthy marriage in which they respect each other's abilities and support each other unconditionally. Fans of Becky Chambers's Wayfarers series for its warmth and strong found family relationships will find a lot to enjoy here, as Max, Lahra, and Wheel work hard to build strong relationships with others on the outskirts of society like them.

This book was a lot of fun and I'm eager to see where Underwood takes this series next. If you want a joyful space opera (literally, given Lahra's abilities) with warm relationships and high stakes drama, look no further.
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Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When it comes to space operas, one generally doesn't think of things like actual SINGING, but I have to admit this is a welcome addition to the corpus of this subgenre.

Add to it some fairly oddball settings/characters, a massive space-nod to Indiana Jones, and transform the first half of the novel into an outright quest to save the universe from the empire, including space battles, more singing, and the optimism inherent in fighting fascism, and you've got yourself a fun book.

So why aren't I giving this an enthusiastic 5-star rating? Because for all its internal enthusiasm and SF-blockbuster movie ethos, it has, unfortunately, all been done before. All that's left is a tale that must do the old thing BETTER than all the ones before it and this one -- while definitely fun -- isn't the beat-all of the genre. There is a LOT of space operas out there.

Still, if you're looking for something new in the subgenre, I definitely think you ought to check this out. :) Expect adventure. :)
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ANNIHILATION ARIA is a comic space opera with an action/adventure feel like the old serials - think INDIANA JONES in space.  I read it on a whim but to be honest, this isn't my usual style and it didn't quite come off for me.  I think that's on me, though - I'm at the point where I tend to read more literary works (I've gotten fussy in my old age).  If my opening line resonates with you, give it a shot.  You'll probably like it.
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Conceptually this was an interesting read.  The author has stated that he was inspired by The Guardians of the Galaxy and I can definitely the “comic book” influence.  The story was relatively straight forward, if rather silly and simple at times; the characters tended to be caricatures and fairly shallow with little to no development over the course of the story. The plot had no real surprises here, and for a fun, casual read, that is all okay. I was actually super impressed that the author was able to portray an ongoing, stable relationship (aka the love birds) when most seem to see relationships as an easy source of conflict/drama.  I also found the indirect reference to Atlantis fascinating. There are other interesting ideas that the author introduces along the way; however, I felt he missed as often as he hit my interest. For example … cyborgs are kool … combining letters into unpronounceable sequences to illustrate how alien something is not so much (I hate this with a passion as it drastically slows down my reading speed OR prompts me to increase my scan speed). Likewise, the author throughs in a veritable soup of tech terms that seem to highlight his complete lack of understanding of what those terms actually mean (so not much research on this apparently).  For example … he talks about questioning the heterodoxy when by definition, such a statement is an oxymoron.  Compile is an action or process … it is not a techie language. Finally … I was not interested in the Vsenk POV at all; but then I can only manage a handful of POV changes before getting irritated, so YMMV.  Oh .,. and while I absolutely love happily ever after endings ... this one seemed to ignore the idea that while the big bad was neutralized, there was another less powerful cousin still out there that is basically the same threat to good everywhere ... and this was compeletely ignored at the end.  Despite all of that, it was a relatively light and fun read.

I was given this free advanced reader's copy ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. #annihilationaria #NetGalley
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I love light space opera, but I was underwhelmed with this novel. 

It’s frustrating that I couldn’t like it more because it has a lot of things I love: female characters who are people and not just tag-along girlfriends, cool weapons, respectful romantic relationships, and alien cultures. Unfortunately, nothing about it was particularly innovative. 

I think the main issue is that it feels like “book 2”. Instead of getting to watch a team grow and come together despite their differences, Max, Lahra and Wheel are already a functioning trio. Their dynamic is … a little boring. The reason why Guardians of the Galaxy (which the author mentions in his afterward) is so much fun is because the team doesn’t get along. It’s another reason why I also loved The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Firefly, and pretty much every other sci-fi book/movie about a small group on a spaceship. 

If the dialogue had been snappy this might have been ok, but there’s nothing memorable about what I hesitate to call banter (aside from one time when Max references Fresh Prince). What’s even more frustrating is that their dynamic could have been made more interesting as Max's fish-out-of-water story or an unorthodox alien-Terran romance (though it barely qualifies, as she’s basically human), but we are denied both of these as Max has acclimatized and the romance is already built and is the victim of a lot of telling and not showing. It seems that Max’s Terran background is included for three reasons: to make cultural comparisons re: discrimination, to provide allusions to earth popular culture, and to make it easy to identify with him, yet as much as these worked I didn’t find they contributed to advancing the story. 

The story does pick up considerably around the 40% mark when we get a new perspective - that of the antagonist. This gave the story much-needed depth and interest, as this character has a different perspective and his chapters provide interesting background on the villains. I perked up whenever a chapter title started with his name. 

And then the novel goes full “save the world from a doomsday weapon” and I continued simply to finish, especially after what seemed like a big continuity error on behalf of the weapon. 

I’m still giving it 3 out of 5, because it had a great deal of potential, and I did like certain things about it, but the things I did like didn’t outweigh the rest enough to bump it to 4. 

I did think the title was rather clever given Lahra’s powers and the doomsday weapon.  The cover is beautiful, I must add.
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A bit slow for me personally. I know I might be in the minor party here, but this one as just a bit over the top for me personally.
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