Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"First Duty" Review

Reviewed by Ed Cox for Beyond Centauri issue 22
Beyond Centauri is a magazine of fantasy, science fiction, and ewww-gross for younger readers [for readers of all ages], published quarterly on the 1st day of January, April, July, and October. Beyond Centauri publishes short stories, poems, illustrations, puzzles, articles, and movie reviews.

by Marva Dasef

Dilemma is an important part of storytelling. There must be a problem for characters to first discover, then explore, and finally overcome. From historical fiction to tales of the far future, the dilemma, the quandary, the catch-22, is always present. With her science fiction novel First Duty, Marva Dasef weighs in with a dilemma that might just change the rule of the universe.

Nyra is a recent graduate of the Space Service. She is eager to prove her worth within an interstellar police force that is controlled by the mighty government-cum-corporation IncPlan. Nyra’s service begins in a baptism of fire when her first mission is to guard the transfer of the infamous criminal Caspar. Caspar is the head of a rebellion fighting against IncPlan, and he is just about the most wanted man in the universe. But when he escapes from custody, Nyra’s troubles begin, and not in the way she expects.

Dasef has researched her novel well, and the plot and landscape are developed and presented clearly. Earth’s population had spread to colonise a multitude of other planets. On occasion, human physiology has been adapted to survive in differing atmospheres, and this ensures the side characters who enter the story are interesting and often unique. Space Service’s primary function is to police the huge gulfs of space between the human colonies, and to ensure that IncPlan’s law is followed to the letter, without question. The universe is safe under IncPlan’s rule, but nothing is ever as it seems.

When Nyra next meets Caspar, it is as his hostage. She comes to learn that he is far from the savage criminal IncPlan has drawn him to be. Caspar is a gentleman, a man of morals, fighting what he claims is the good fight against the injustices of the hierarchy. Nyra is intrigued by Caspar, but not convinced by his reason, and she’s willing to play along for now. However, when certain facts arise concerning IncPlan, and her family, Nyra’s beliefs and loyalties are shaken up. But where does her first duty lie? To the pursuit of truth? Or to the laws of her masters which she has sworn to enforce?

Although First Duty has depth and detail, Dasef ensures that her first duty is to entertainment, as this kind of science fiction demands. The plot and characters have their dilemmas and intricacies, but this tale never forgets to have fun. Dasef has created a universe here, a future for an ever-changing human race that’s just begging to be filled with more stories.

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