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TPG’s Tasters – The Riss Gamble, by C R Daems (The Riss Series #1)

May 3, 2015

Right, I can’t think of any better way to introduce this than the blurb, so let’s just go with that:

A young girl dreams of seeing the stars and meeting aliens. Her chance comes in the form of a project offering a college education, commissioning in the SAS Fleet, and a partnership with an alien. She successfully qualifies and wins one of the coveted ten positions. Of course everything comes with a price—the alien is a parasite that inhabits the body and mind, and is there for life. Is it a dream or nightmare come true—or maybe both?

I mean…yeaaaaah. From the blurb alone, I pretty much assumed that I’d be buying this one. Because with a concept like that, how can I not read it? This has me written all over it, for crying out loud! Already, I want to read this through simply on the principle of the matter: it’s clearly going to cover topics I like to look at in my own writing, and I make a point of reading any such work whenever I find it.

Though with all that said: it wasn’t entirely clear from the blurb what type of story this would be. Military SF was my first guess, from the mention of a “SAS Fleet” and this soon turned out to be correct. How important said fleet turns out to be (as opposed to the alien) remains to be seen, however. In other words, I wasn’t completely sure what I was going into here – which in turn means that the blurb could probably be improved. But then, the blurb is the reason why I’m looking into this, so who am I to complain?

The Cover

Riss_cover

…that is hideous. I’m sorry, but…really. This looks like it was slapped together in Photoshop in an hour, tops. And why does most of the text look handwritten? Isn’t this meant to be a high-tech scifi world?

To be fair, the individual pictures look great – particularly the spaceship – and this does indeed give off the vibe of a Military science fiction adventure. With a little more care, this could have been great; as things are, it just looks…well, rushed.

I actually checked out the publisher after this, just to see if this wasn’t a self-publishing effort. It’s traditionally published, as things turned out, albeit by a press with a fair few dodgy covers under their belt. I’m sure there’s something to be said about trad and self publishing, there, but I’ll leave that for another time.

The Sample

Let me reiterate: my expectation here was that would be buying this no matter what. After all, it’s a book which deals with SF topics I like to explore, so I almost felt like I had to go read all the way through it…unless, of course, it turned out to be utterly without merit. Hence, the “taster” treatment.

I was quietly hopeful as I began to read the sample. Taster_1

Quick random point: “SAS” brings a certain real life organisation to mind every time I see it, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one. Anyway…

Our unnamed protagonist proceeds to exposit out loud on her slim chances of actually getting selected. She looks around her apartment – complete with a paragraph of description – and then goes to work instead of opening the bloody package. I kid you not. She gets talking to her boss, at which point we learn her name is Nadya. More exposition follows… Taster_2

…and then more…

Taster_4

Tell, tell, tell. I gotta admit: I was getting disappointed real quick. Sure, I was only a couple of pages in, but if this was what the pacing would be like all the way through…

I began to skim through the extract, just to see if/when the sample actually got to the point. Nadya gets accepted- of course – and then embarks on a long space journey to the capital of the SAS, where further testing takes place. She makes the cut – again, no surprises there – and meets her alien Riss partner, who currently resides in a “Gorrillae” host. Which kinda looks like a gorilla, by the way.

Taster_3

It was after this point that I began to get on board with the story, as Nadya and her Riss begin to interact. Nadya gets accustomed to the benefits and drawbacks of being a host, and then assists a couple of other candidates in doing the same. Riss can take over their hosts’ bodies (and do on occasion) but can also augment their host’s body and senses as well as quickly learning massive amounts of information – all of which is useful to the SAS fleet, of course.

Ultimately, Nadya is cleared to begin attending a military academy, which takes us to the end of the second chapter. My overall

impression here is…mixed, to put it mildly. Things seem to just be happening right now, as opposed to there being a clear overall storyline, and I can’t help but wonder how long that will go on for. The interactions between host and alien are fun to read, just as I’d hoped, but I’m hoping there’ll be at least a little more to this story further down the line.

If things go well, then I can see this being similar to F Paul Wilson’s Healer…with just a dash Ender’s Game thrown in, what with the academy and all. And that, I daresay, would make for a very enjoyable read indeed. That’s a fairly big “if”, though, and I can imagine this read-through going sour fairly easily. But with all that said…

Did I buy it?

Yes. I had to buy it, I tell you. Honest!

Incidentally, I’ve been re-reading Stephanie Meyer’s The Host for the last few days, and I’ve decided now to simply move on rather than finishing it. Three guesses what I’ll be reading in its place 😉

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