Randolph Lalonde’s Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6: Fragments is the latest release in his long running space opera. Unlike many of the authors that I will be reviewing over time, Lalonde is an independent author, self-publishing online only. Most of his work is available in e-book for only, though a few copies of his work are available POD, like this latest release and the latest version of Spinward Fringe: Origins, the compressed trilogy that began the Spinward Fringe series.
Many people may feel leery about attempting books by an author that has not made it through the publishing houses. With many independents, they would probably be correct in their trepidation. Lalonde’s work however, is something that could, and should, have made it through a publishing house. At least, his most recent broadcasts are worthy of that honour. In the beginning of the Spinward Fringe series, it was pretty plain to see that that the author still had a lot of growing to accomplish. He needed more polish, and a more thorough build. I’m happy to say that he’s found his way to a solid theme.
Like many traditionally published work, this piece was nearly free of typos and major faults. Yes, there were a couple still hidden here and there, but nothing that interfered with the story (and I suspect they were made by the conversion to e-book process). The eye quickly skips over these minor blunders and keeps reading. The story in his latest broadcast is enthralling, pulling you through it page after page until you realize that its 3:30am and you’re supposed to be heading to work in four hours. Once I finally managed to get myself to start reading his latest instalment, I chewed through it quickly.
There were parts where I was excited, saddened, angered, and unfortunately, disappointed. The story is a good emotional roller coaster ride telling us the story about people as they deal with life in a universe at turmoil. Those characters are trying to survive, find their way, and help people as they beat back whatever oppression may be stepping up to try to take over.
In this story about characters, Lalonde gives us a number of interesting twists and turns. People are not necessarily who they appear to be, and many are capable of things that thus-far, we may have thought impossible for them to do. Unlike some traditionally published authors, Lalonde was able to make these impossible choices, make sense for the character. He was able to put in enough of a situational change that it would provoke a character change. Basically, he did what many authors strive to do: he made a sensible story arc that involved growth and change.
Admittedly, there was a part or two where I stopped and had to think to myself, “but would a person actually do that? Would this person actually do that?” After thinking it over, for almost all situations, I came down to a solid yes. The only pair that I had some difficulty accepting were near the end of the novel, and I’m not about to reveal the ending to potential readers. If you’ve been reading the series to this point (or are about to start reading the series), when you get to the spots that I’ve felt hiccups, you’ll probably feel them too. Knowing Lalonde, he’ll probably reveal some hidden under-plot that has been lightly hinted at in the next novel in the series that will make these uneasy moments make sense.
This is also probably the first time I came across one of Lalonde’s novels where an aspect of the technology was a little more difficult to swallow. Well, maybe this one is more like a biology aspect, but whatever. Without revealing this story, I’m going to have to use a different, unrelated series that has something similar-ish happen. In Stargate, the ga’ould are a parasitic organism that takes over a host, but the host can fight back and effect some change. Lalonde seems to be channelling that host issue in a part of this novel, and it’s a pretty important part of this novel. But it doesn’t really make sense given the circumstances around it. Initiating a “ghost in the machine” aspect within the “ghost in the machine” aspect is a very difficult pill to swallow. But again, I have faith that he’ll get it sorted for us by the end of the next novel.
Fragments is the second book in a “self-contained” trilogy. The final instalment of the trilogy promises to wrap up the main, overarching plot of broadcasts 5-7, but leave just enough of an opening to allow for further books in the series, provided there is still a demand. If Randolph keeps improving his writing, I’m sure that demand will be there.
To find out more about Spinward Fringe and Lalonde’s other work, I recommend checking out his website: http://www.spinwardfringe.com
In all, I’m giving Randolph’s latest, and in my opinion greatest broadcast, four out of five.
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