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Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell
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Quarter Share (edition 2010)

by Nathan Lowell

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2001158,750 (3.8)6
Member:DWWilkin
Title:Quarter Share
Authors:Nathan Lowell
Info:Ridan Publishing (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 282 pages
Collections:Rated
Rating:***1/2
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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A Novel take on space travel.

I started reading [b:Quarter Share|2334538|Quarter Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #1)|Nathan Lowell|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1273808382s/2334538.jpg|2341114] without much in the way of expectations and I was pleasantly surprised with how engaging I found the main character and the general story. In fact I found it so engaging I read it in its entirety in two sittings. Nathan Lowell manages to paint a very mundane but somehow engaging world of a life aboard a ship.

Despite this being an entertaining read, there were a few points that nagged at me through the whole reading. The first was that the main characters brilliant suggestions to improve life aboard the ship really weren't that mind shatteringly smart. In fact, a lot of them seemed to be more common sense than anything that someone should be praised for. The second issue, and for me the most disengaging was how much this felt like a young adult novel. Even aboard the most tame and sedate space ship in the world you'd expect someone to care about the opposite sex in a way that's more than discreet giggling and jokes about "boytoys". In fact towards the end of the book I mentally inserted that the crew was given a hormone suppression treatment so I could finish the book.

Overall this was a welcome departure from the usual sci-fi format and was a book I would recommend despite it's flaws. Although now that I've had a taste for this format I would love to see it done in a more "adult" way with some more of the imperfections and conflicts exposed.

( )
  adroit762 | May 19, 2014 |
Raised in isolation by his mother at a private university, Ishmael Wang is singularly unprepared for the world when she dies suddenly. With no family, no friends, no skills, and an impending eviction from the company facility that has been his only home, Ishmael's desperation drives him to a life in space, serving as kitchen swabbie aboard the Lois McKendrick. What follows is the coming-of-age story of a lonely genius, set against the slow unfolding of shipboard life, and surrounded by the one thing Ishmael has never had before: friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ishmael's tale and the diversity of people he encounters along the way, but there are aspects of the story that shout "Mary Sue" at me.

My biggest problem is the lack of adversity Ishmael faces. Sure, his mom dies unexpectedly and he has no clue what to do for a while, but he quickly finds his way into space aboard a freighter, and thereafter, everything goes magically for him. Ishmael appears to be the classic wish-fulfilment character, who steps from success to success to success without ever encountering a hint of opposition or risk of failure.

But having said that, he's a likeable hero, and I did indeed read on to the next books in the series. I think the strength of the writing overshadows the somewhat unrealistic rise of our hero, and demonstrates that it is possible to provide an entertaining and affecting story without the usual injections of violence, skulduggery, and galaxies in peril.

As for the science fiction elements, they definitely take a back seat to the story, which for the most part, could just as easily have taken place on the high seas of sail-powered Earth. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is more merchant fiction, than science fiction, as Ishmael's journey offers a text-book case study of how to set up and succeed in a small space-business.

So, if you like your fiction science-driven, or if you crave heroes who have to fight their way to the top, you should probably pass this one up. But if you like warm stories of good things happening to worthy people, or you're a sucker for a good rags-to-riches story, then this might just do it for you. ( )
  Jefficus | Apr 25, 2014 |
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 |
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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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