Books I Love: Starship’s Mage by Glynn Stewart
Since this is sort of a review, I suppose it’s only right to disclose that Glynn Stewart was kind enough to “blurb” ReCoil. Of course, my love of the Starship Mage series predates my completion of the that particular manuscript, but the internet is a great place to err on the side of caution. On to the review(ish)…
The publishing industry, like most media, is trying to react to the changing technological landscape and emerging markets of the online world. One of the side effects of this has been the rise of self-publishing. For those unaware, the traditional publishing path is long and, at times, can feel completely arbitrary. Rejection is the order of the day, oftentimes for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the work, but rather for things like not wanting to compete with similar titles already under the publisher’s umbrella. And getting traditionally published is by no means a guarantor of success. The dirty secret of the publishing industry is that well over 70% of traditionally published authors still work day jobs. Quite simply, we don’t make enough through writing alone to pay the bills.
As a result, many prospective authors have turned to self-publishing or a hybrid model (where they still try to get traditionally published, but also release works as a self-published author). The barriers to becoming a self-published author are lower than they’ve ever been. This, too, isn’t without it’s own set of problems; the lack of gatekeepers means that anyone can publish their work, but the lack of gatekeepers means anyone can publish their work. There’s a lot of chaff out there among the wheat and an argument could be made that the range of technical quality is wider on the self-published front.
But (and to get to the actual point of these blogs rather than espouse on the publishing industry) there are also absolute gems like Glynn Stewart. As is probably clear to those reading this blog, I’m a big fan of both sci-fi and fantasy. Most of the time I like to keep the peanut butter out of the chocolate and keep my genres somewhat separated, but Stewart does such an excellent job of blending the arcane with more traditional science fiction elements in a way that is consistent and makes logical sense within the universe he’s created that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.
Starship’s Mage (the titular book of the series) follows Damien Montgomery, a recent graduate of the mage academy and one of the elite Jump Mages (those capable of facilitating faster-than-light travel) as he discovers that no matter your skills and qualifications, the future still runs on nepotism and personal contacts. You are who you know and Damien doesn’t know anyone that can help him get a job. But when a powerful figure in the local system blacklists an independent Captain, an opportunity arises. Signing on with the blacklisted Captain will cause problems of its own, but with no other options, that’s exactly what Damien does.
The story that unfolds embroils the young mage in a conflict with the criminal underworld of the galaxy and reveals a deep power hidden within that brings him to the attention of the Mage-King himself and sets the stage for many more adventures.
So, why do I love Starship’s Mage? The word-building is excellent, with magic being woven into the fabric of the story in a way that is both believable and just as good of an explanation for being able to break the laws of physics (*cough* faster-than-light travel *cough*) as anything you’d find in hard sci-fi. I love stories where magic is simultaneously commonplace and arcane, and Stewart does an excellent job of paining a world where the wielders of magic are respected for what they can do, but beyond that, not given any particular special treatment. The story is engaging with tight plotting and good characterization. Bottom line, this is a fun and exciting read. What more can you ask for?