Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick Review

SworldPost

Author: William R. Harris
Publisher: Chandra Press
Publication Date:  May 3, 2019
Format: Kindle
Print Length: 464 pages
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.

Sworld is a slow-burn space exploration sci-fi novel hitting on themes of power, colonialism, and the unintended consequences of scientific exploration. A novel with a definite Star Trek vibe, Sworld takes the reader on a journey into the unknown on a planet with elements both familiar and alien.

The Story And Pacing

“Forced to flee his homeworld, Oberus, the genetically re-engineered Malick leads a scientific expedition to the far reaches of the solar system. A distress call from an alien ship with a mysterious cargo leaves the team marooned on the arcane planet Sworld. Plunged into a quest for answers that ultimately leads them to their genesis, Malick and the crew must solve the enigmas of Sworld or perish.” – Blurb from Goodreads.

Sworld begins with a strange alien ship lying in apparent wait for centuries for an expected rendezvous with a ship from elsewhere in the solar system. When that ship arrives it is crewed by representatives from three different races; two humanoid ones, the Oberuns, and the Imps, along with the Redulins – a species evolved to inhabit computer systems and robots. When their ship receives the distress call from the alien ship above Sworld the mission is diverted and their lives change forever. After picking up individuals of new alien races they are forced to abandon their ship in space (which is subsequently destroyed) and land on Sworld. With no way to get home again they must explore their new home and begin to make a life for themselves.

And that is essentially the story – the crew of the ship led by their captain Malick, the discoveries they make on Sworld, and how they deal with them. They encounter even more new alien species, amazing forms of plant and animal life, and previously unknown scientific phenomenon. As they do they are sucked into the various existing conflicts between the species on the planet. Here is where much of that Star Trek vibe comes in, boldly going where no one has gone before. The scenes on board their spaceship are also highly reminiscent of the Star Trek bridge and way in which the ship and its crew operates.

What the story seemed to lack was an obvious objective until much of the way through the book. Here’s where that “slow-burn” comment I made above comes in. Some readers will object to that label and argue that there is plenty of action in Sworld, and while that is true and there are multiple fight/battle scenes, the overall pacing has a slow feel. This is because for at least half the book you aren’t sure where things are going. The characters are exploring their wold, encountering new races and species, getting into conflicts and exploring some more. It just takes a while to figure out where the plot is headed and why. Once you do get a feel for it the read starts to settle in and the pace begins to pick up. The major conflict is resolved a little too quickly and easily in my opinion but it is in the falling arc that things get a bit mysterious and really intriguing before ending on a surprising cliffhanger leaving you wanting the next installment.

Characters

There are many, many characters in Sworld. Most are secondary and there are too many to mention them all. The protagonist is Malick, a genetically enhanced humanoid (Oberun) and the captain of the expedition. Malick was a wealthy scientist who was forced into exile due to his unorthodox experiments. One of those experiments is Kitty, a genetically enhanced cat modified by splicing together the DNA of multiple feline species to create one super cat (more on Kitty below). Malick is something of a Gary Stu – that male version of a Mary Sue. He isn’t full on Gary at first but his abilities enhance over time to a point where he is pretty unbeatable.

The story is told in the third person from Malick’s point of view. Most of it is told in the present on-board the ship or on Sworld, but nearly every chapter has some piece of it told as a dream sequence where Malick is recalling his past. It’s through these dream sequences we get to know more of his inner turmoil, what’s driving him, and how he got to this point in his life. There are surprises in Malick’s past that have a profound impact on his decisions on Sworld and add some interesting depth and moral question to his character.

Kitty was a favorite character of mine throughout the story. Her genetic enhancements give her the ability to communicate with others in surprising ways. One of my favorite aspects of Sworld is the way Kitty communicates with Malick and the influence she has on him. Harris’ way of writing the relationship between Kitty and Malick is well done and allows the reader to really connect with the two much like a loving relationship between pet and its human in our world, only here the pet can talk back so-to-speak. But don’t let Kitty’s name fool you into thinking she’s a tiny sweet little kitten. She’s far from it, and becomes perhaps the most deadly creature to on the planet.

I was also a big fan of the Redulin characters. Harris manages to give varied persona to life forms that inhabit computer/robotic structures. This seems odd I know but he pulls it off. Though the Redulins begin the story as sort of a hive mind, they each begin to develop their own personalities related to their function. My favorites were Bit and Byte, two small Redulins who befriend Kitty right away and become inseparable. Bit and Byte have characteristics similar to children…very intelligent and deadly children that is.

World-Building

Where Harris shines in Sworld is in his world-building. He has created a completely alien world where the sky is a green and blue mix, where most of the intelligent creatures are birdlike, where forests are made up of colossal super-trees, where there are fearsome animals,  giant insects, and monstrous sea creatures. Even the main and secondary characters are all alien. This is a world (or solar system) where nobody is human. They may behave in ways that resemble us, but each is something different. Harris’ has a way of having just enough built into the various species for the reader to find a common touch-point, and just enough to be different that makes the story both familiar and foreign.

The only aspect of the world-building I didn’t like was how easy it was for the characters to come up with quick solutions to all their problems just when they needed to. Again this made me think a little of Star Trek. There was almost no problem for which they couldn’t come up with a quick scientific solution to give them an advantage. Advantages the natives to Sworld did not possess or understand.

Themes

As I noted above, Sworld hits on a number of themes including those of power, colonialism, and the unintended consequences of scientific exploration. Hanging over the entire story is the fact that a group of scientifically advanced species lands on a planet with no modern technology. This immediately creates a power imbalance where you have space travelers interacting with species still using knives as weapons. It’s like the European powers sailing into the Americas or Africa during the so-called age of exploration, only to an exponential degree. Malick has the ability and option to rule the world if he and his crew chooses to do so.

While Malick does not go on a tyrannical conquest binge the themes associated with this imbalance are played out. The native species on Sworld hit on this imbalance in various ways including calling Malick out on it when they perceive he is treating them as children. Though he recognizes it and attempts to adjust his behavior it doesn’t change the fact the imbalance remains. It also doesn’t change the fact that as the group with all the technology, Malick and his crew are able to push their (his) agenda on Sworld even if doing so is unintentional and will forever change the structure of the world’s societies (which may be good or bad).

Malick and his crew also introduce new technology and thus weaponry to Sworld. They even develop new weaponry they didn’t previously possess in order to deal with conflicts that arise with some of the native species. Here the book touches on the ways technology advances through warfare in ways it might not have otherwise. There is a particular scene that stuck out to me where Malick becomes appalled at what his crew has created while knowing things were almost inevitably heading in that direction. That no matter what our best intentions may be, circumstances will often take us on a different course.

Conclusion

Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick was an enjoyable read and I’m interested to see where the story goes. There were a number of threads regarding Malick and his back-story that were not fully explored, there is definitely much more to the planet and why things are the way they are which were barely touched upon, many unanswered questions about the alien spacecraft at the beginning of the book and its purpose, and it ended on a mysterious cliff-hanger and I REALLY want to know what happens next. While some elements left some things to be desired such as the Gary-Stu aspect of Malick and how easily the crew came up with solutions to problems, I was able to look past them and enjoy the book. I mean, I like comic book characters and they are pretty much all Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus when you think about it. This isn’t a comic book (may have been a bad analogy), but all I’m saying is I can deal with it to a point. I really enjoyed the non-human characters throughout the book, especially the Redulins and Kitty and the way they were brought to life. I look forward to what direction Harris takes the story in the future.

About Chandra Press

Chandra Press is a new publishing house focusing on digital publishing, modern marketing, and science fiction. Their first book was published in October 2018 and since that time they’ve published three more books including Sworld. 

I want to thank Chandra Press for the opportunity to read and review Sworld and I look forward to more sci-fi stories from them.

You can find out more about Chandra Press at their website chandrapress.com

5 thoughts on “Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick Review

    • I wasn’t sure what I thought for a while. I’m not typically a slow burn kinda guy. I’m curious to read the next book but at same time if I don’t ever read it I won’t be upset. The I liked it more than I disliked it if that makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. We share some of the same thoughts on this one. Many things I like (characters/ world building) and several I was just meh about… And like you, I’d like to keep up with Chandra to see what’s to come.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Month In Review: June 2019 | Off The TBR

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