Review: “The Curse Of Europa” by Brian P. Kayser

Title: The Curse Of Europa
Author: Brian P. Kayser
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: CreateSpace, 2012

I received my copy of The Curse Of Europa through the Goodreads FirstReads program. It was even inscribed by the author, which was kinda cool. I have to say that the book was really well researched, or at least appeared to be. Not being an expert myself, I’m giving Mr. Kayser the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his sources. He does mention Dr. Britney Schmidt as his source for a lot of the science, and I think it would be fair to say that he based the premise of the book on one of her scholarly papers. The plot of the book, while maybe a bit predictable, is at least fairly thrilling. Unfortunately, the narrative itself is incredibly mediocre. Not bad, just…mediocre, which is sad, because I really wanted to like this. One always wants a self-published novel to turn out to be excellent, but aside from praising his research the best I can say this time is that Mr. Kayser shows good potential.

The year is 2056, and mankind has taken to the stars. Well, star. We’re still working on exploring our own solar system properly before going any further. After numerous failed probe missions to Jupiter’s icy moon of Europa, the Global Space Organization is sending a manned expedition to test for liquid water and, if they’re incredibly lucky, life on the barren moon. The previous failed missions have led to talk of a curse (thus the title), but for the most part the crew of the White Bull 2 dismisses this as ridiculous. What will they find on–and below–Europa’s icy surface? Well, I’m not going to tell you, but it would hardly be spoiling things to tell you that everything does not go as planned….

Like I said, I wanted to like this. The science seemed well researched and thought out, at least to my amateur eye, but the narrative itself…well, it could have used some more work. The main issue is the narrator’s voice. It seems more like a screenplay than a novel, maybe even the detailed outline for a screenplay before the writer goes back in and fleshes things out. The maxim in writing is always show, don’t tell, and I regretfully have to conclude that the narrator here does far more telling than showing. Sometimes we get a full-out scene, but far more often everything is glossed over in generalization. Don’t tell me that Patrick is worried about the curse, put me inside his head and let me see his reactions for myself! There are exceptions, but all too often they feel forced. Too much of the narration feels like set description and blocking, and a disappointing amount of what should be characterization is simply character description. The main couple characters are reasonably developed, but most of the others are merely caricatures. The dialogue wasn’t excellent, but it wasn’t too bad. I’ve seen (and written!) much worse. The plotting was solid, if predictable. There were a few grammatical errors, but not too many for being a self-published book. As a bonus, the book includes numerous CG art images at the beginning of select chapters. This works so long as it is confined to the spectral landscapes and spacescapes, but the lack of color printing really makes it look poorly-done when you’re pulled inside the ship or shown the crew roster. It doesn’t really detract from the experience, but it certainly does the book no favors. I blame it on the lack of a professional publisher. At the end of the day, I have to conclude that this book was simply incredibly mediocre. The good news is that if Mr. Kayser cleans this up a bit and fleshes it out a bit more, this (or his next book, if he decides to simply move on) could be really good.

CONTENT: Mild language. Some flirting, but no real sexual content. Brief disaster and monster violence, which I shall avoid describing in order to keep from giving away plot points.

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