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Sentinels: A Distant Star
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2007

Format: Book
By:   Van Allen Plexico
Genre:   Space opera
Review Date:   February 22, 2007
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

"OK, genius, what now? Just walk up to the first alien I meet and say 'Excuse me, can you take me to the resident slave master?" -- Brachis

This novel has a genius in a suit of armor who meets a hot alien girl, and a good time is had by all.

Sentinels: A Distant Star deals in cliches, with archetypal characters and stories that readers have seen before. The reason some cliches exist, however, is because they work.

This is the second book in a series. The first book was straight-up, unashamed superhero action. This one is straight-up, unashamed space opera. It has aliens, spaceships, slave lords, time travel, and a few giant robots.

The genius is the star in this book; he was a supporting character in book one. The Sentinels of the title are stock hero types: strong flying guy Ultraa; impetuous rookie Pulsar; the genius Brachis; and taciturn powerhouse Vanadium. This book adds a Wilma Deering-like spaceship pilot. The plot scoots the alien chick and Brachis along, where they tangle with the aforementioned foes, and they meet a band of aliens who appear to be the Smurfs.

This series is all plot. The characters have personalities and such, but they're not very important. Very little time is spent in the heroes' inner monologue. They're too busy.

In the first book, there was no superhero-genre world-building. There were superheroes, then the fights started. Here, some aliens are green. Others are red. Then there's some running and some fighting. Not a page is spent on race and culture descriptions, or with apostrophe-clogged alien names. I didn't mind skipping it this time.

World-dominating villain type Warlord and simpering lackey type Francisco, the main villains from book one, return in a subplot. It turns out they're funny. They're like blustering Frasier and brittle Niles from Frasier.

This is obviously the second book in a series. Jumping in is easy, but jumping out is not. There remain unsolved storylines. The primary encounters are wrapped up, but the book ends with some lack of satisfaction; a lot of toys are left out of the box. The first book was a stand-alone that stood alone. You were done. This one, not so much.

Sentinels: A Distant Star evokes sci-fi from an earlier, less complex era, where the action was the most important thing. It's solid fun that takes itself just seriously enough.

RevolutionSF senior editor Joe Crowe has the Smurfs song in his head now. La la, la la la la la...aaiigh!

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