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Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell

Quarter Share (edition 2010)

by Nathan Lowell

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183None65,291 (3.83)5
Title:Quarter Share
Authors:Nathan Lowell
Info:Ridan Publishing (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 282 pages
Tags:Own, Read, 2012, eBook, Fiction, Science Fiction, Solar Clipper Trader Tales, 3.5 Rating, Reviewed

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Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell


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Unlike most space opera, this novel focuses not on heroes saving planets from galaxy-spanning schemes, but rather on ordinary people using hard work and cunning to overcome the challenges of life in multi-planetary civilisation. However, this is no thinly veiled polemic or economic treaty: the plot is engaging and characters are firmly at the forefront of the narrative.

The story revolves around Ishmael Horatio Wang, a teenager forced to leave his home planet when he is orphaned. Lacking both money and sought-after skills, his only option to avoid crippling debts from passage to another planet is to attempt to find work as an unskilled ship-hand, earning a mere quarter of a share of profits.

Although there is a form of fast interstellar travel, this story is very firmly set against a background of plausible physics and its ramifications. The immense cost of moving mass from planet to planet is most obviously highlighted in the strict personal cargo limits for ship-hands, with an increased cargo allowance being possibly a greater benefit of promotion than an actual pay-rise. However, it is also implicit in ground-bound society; the cost of locating habitable planets has made them commercial objects, many owned not by their inhabitants but by corporations.

The thread of plausible explanations continues in the characterisation. Ishmael’s growth from an orphan with little idea of his future to a respected ship-hand is achieved more through his constant attempts to better himself than through luck. This lack of a great destiny immediately makes him more sympathetic to the reader.

Lowell continues the theme of improvement over acceptance in the other characters: Ishmael is paired with Pip, another Quarter Share, as soon as he joins ship; however, Pip’s complacent attitude, whether in his duties or in personal dealings, has left him without either advancement or contingencies.

The risk of status quo thinking is even shown in insignificant events: before Ishmael is challenged to make a good cup of coffee, the crew assume ship’s coffee is always mediocre; afterward they not only expect good coffee, but also discuss their preferred bean.

Overall this theme of personal-exploration-as-a-good-in-itself gives the book a sense of possibility reminiscent of the earliest space opera, without needing the cowboys-in-space plot.

Although Lowell has created an engaging story which flows naturally from a combination of realistic world and solid characters, this is very much a story of normal people facing normal challenges; it might therefore not appeal to readers who come to science-fiction only for space battles and quirky aliens.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. I recommend it to all readers whether or not they usually read science-fiction. ( )
  Tyrshundr | Feb 5, 2014 |
Starship travel *without* any fighting ends up being completely absorbing. The author's narration adds quite a bit to the dramatic effects in the tale. The level of conflict is feather-light but I expect that subsequent volumes in the series will ramp this up. ( )
  rmagahiz | Dec 21, 2013 |
A fun, laid-back new take on the "Hornblower in Space" genre. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 29, 2013 |
Way back in the day, when RPG (Role Playing Games) first appeared, the 70s, the first popular Science Fiction game was GDW's Traveller. A game that had a very good merchant system to make us all Nicholas van Rijns.

This is a subject matter, in Quarter Share that appeals to me. The trader going around and starting with nothing and making a fortune. We see this also in some of the work of Miller and Lee, which at present is very popular. Heinlein explored this as well in the Juveniles.

Lowell however needs more seasoning. There are some major things wrong, and If I were not a fan of the genre and the motif that this is, I would give it a lower rating (so if you don't like this milieu, stay clear.)

Lowell fails in that the journey is not the story, or there really is no end to the journey. (Spoilers) Our Hero finds himself on a company style world where his mother dies and thus he has no place there. They are kicking him off, with not enough money to really get anywhere. Hold your horses, would they space the kid? Would they let him become a burden in the sewers? They would find some work for him of some sort, even if he didn't like it.

Then he gets on the ship and will become a trader. Cool, my type of story, except our hero is super Mr. Sensitive, because of his mother. He treats women with the patience of a fifty year old, and is the perfect sex toy, totally understanding for the cougars that he will hook up with. I think Lowell forgot what it was to be a seventeen year old virgin. And especially to see women in near nothing. That fantasy he should have played up instead of making his hero a walking chick flick inspired character.

Last we see that all these adults who have been traders for years are all stupid. You know this because Mr. Seventeen finds new ways to make a fortune that none of the adults ever figured out. Yeah, Lowell, you had some good stuff, and maybe by the end of the series you will redeem yourself, but building a world where the hero is your only intelligent being, and everyone else is stupid suspends reality too much. ( )
1 vote DWWilkin | Dec 3, 2012 |
~~~ Read the full review at www.robbflynn.com ~~~

Quarter Share is the first of six books in the series The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper (it seems to be called Trader Tales more often than not, however). The series was initially developed as episodic podcasts (available free through iTunes) before being offered in print through Ridan Publishing. All 6 books are available as podcasts, but only the first 4 seem to be out in print/ebook.

A quick synopsis before I get to the guts of Quarter Share:

Ishmael is a teenager living on a corporate-owned planet. When his single mother is killed in an accident, he has 90 days to get off-world since he is no longer affiliated with the corporation. Uneducated and broke, he has limited options – join the military or sign on to a trading vessel. He opts for the latter, and the remainder of the story is, essentially, a coming-of-age story as “Ish” acclimates to his new life aboard a cargo spaceship.

There’s a lot to both love and hate about QS.

~~~ continued at: http://www.robbflynn.com/?p=1509> ~~~ ( )
1 vote RobbFlynn | May 29, 2012 |
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Book 1 consists of 28 chapters in 17 episodes, available as a free podcast audio book (podiobook) at podiobooks.com.
Book 1 consists of 28 chapters in 17 episodes, available as a free podcast audio book (podiobook) at podiobooks.com.
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