This review is about a science fiction novel titled Tyche’sFlight. Why I’m writing it is covered in the Introduction, which follows. But if you just want to read the review, feel free to skip the Introduction.
In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Hollywood’s Big Studio system began to collapse under its own weight and changing fashions as the French film fashion of auteur worship spread and young renegades and small, independent producers began more and more to scrounge together funding and make films on a shoestring budget that made money at the box office.
Something similar started happening in mainstream publishing not long after, as publishing houses began growing by acquiring other houses, so that nowadays what was once a stand-alone publisher is now just an imprint of a larger international conglomerate, and a publisher’s name is now a string of names separated by slashes or hyphens. Here are just two examples to illustrate the corporate complexity common to mainstream publishers:
· Hachette Book Group imprints: Hachette Books (formerly Hyperion Books, acquired in 2013), Little, Brown and Company (bought by Time Inc. in 1968), Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books, which was part of Time Warner Publishing, which had bought MacDonald & Co. in 1992, Popular Library in 1982, and Paperback Library in 1970), Yen Press, FaithWords, Center Street Books, Windblown Media, Perseus Books (acquired 2014), DaKapo Press, Basic Books, Seal Press, Orbit
· Penguin-Random House imprints: Penguin, Random House, Vintage Books, Crown Publishing Group, Modern Library, Bantam, Ballantine, Del Rey Books, The Dial Press, Knopf Doubleday (remember when they were separate businesses?), and more
All this acquiring and conglomerating meant, in some cases, economies of scale could be achieved. In other cases, it meant a loss of smaller companies’ editorial idiosyncrasies as the larger corporations’ expectations percolated through the editorial and marketing and acquisition departments.
It also meant a greater dependence on big sellers. Mid-list writers found it harder to gain or maintain a toehold, and their books eventually went out of print.
Fortunately, improvements in Print On Demand technology and the rise of small and independent publishers—usually focused on a single or two genres—and the ease of self-publishing have led to an explosion of books being published and easily available outside the traditional mainstream publishers’ catalogs.
This is a good thing.
Unfortunately, there’s so much to choose from, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next, unless you happen to know the author or have a reliable word-of-mouth network. Have you ever gone to the grocery for bath soap only to discover one entire aisle of the store is devoted to different brands and types of bath soap? It’s kinda like that.
Marketing is important for getting your books noticed. But marketing can be an expensive proposition—in time and money—which is valuable for indie writers and publishers: if they’re spending their time marketing their books, they’re not writing and producing the next book; and if that next book doesn’t exist, no readers can buy it, which makes balancing the writer’s budget an even harder job.
There are a few scattered blogs that review indie books, but tracking them down isn’t always easy, and their approach may be scattershot.
So, to support indie writers’ efforts, I started this year with the intention of reading more indie books. (I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution—“resolve” sounds very formal, and that makes me twitch a little. Also, resolutions have a reputation for being broken. So I’ll stick with intention. Much more casual-sounding word.) I’ll also write some reviews for these books. Some will be for books by my pals. Some will be for books I don’t know anything about, but thought I’d just jump in and try ‘em. This first indie review, for Tyche’s Flight, is in that latter category.
Tyche’s Flight is the first in at least two Space Opera trilogies - part of a larger story cycle, the Ezeroc Wars - about the ship and its crew. It’s Space Opera of the sort for those who like the Firefly TV series. If you like the camaraderie of the Rocinante’s crew in The Expanse novels without the macropolitical and socio-cultural discursions, you’ll like Tyche’s Flight. If you like the action in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet novels, you’ll probably enjoy this book.
Grace Gushikenis on the run. She is an esper, a creation of the Empire—now known in the Republic as the Old Empire—and her kind are hunted down and destroyed. So Grace is on the grift, running cons to get from one planet to the next so she can stay at least one step ahead of the Republic’s Men In Black. Her efforts lead her to insinuate herself onto the crew of Tyche, an independent cargo runner. (Think the Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon with a captain--Nathan Chevell—a little less rogue-ish but just as headstrong as Han Solo.
Author Richard Parry doesn’t counterfeit characters from other series, but they are recognizable types. And the characters are interesting and likeable. The Tyche’s crew includes Hope, a young but highly competent engineer who keeps the Tyche running, and who has a secret that’s keeping her hiding from the Republic, just like Grace is. But the rest of the crew knows Hope’s secret. Grace is a newcomer, and hasn't yet earned the level of trust that will let them share that sort of family secret Grace doesn’t let anyone in on her reasons for running.
Elspeth Roussel—El to the rest of the crew—is a top-notch (of course) pilot who zigs and zags and punches it whenever the need arises for Tyche to evade or escape or rush into harm’s way.
October Kohl is both muscle and juggernaut. When there’s a fight, he’s first in line for the fun. (It’s also likely that he started it.) Think Amos Burton (from The Expanse) with a shorter fuse and a great capacity for holding a grudge. He's not simply a two-dimensional character, and his skill at being in the center of dust ups means he has a strong cadre of fans among Parry's readership.
Tyche’s Flight explores the dynamics of this crew’s relationships—among each other and with the greater universe around them—as they learn Grace’s secrets and as she learns theirs. The plot focuses on the Tyche’s mission: the Republic hires the crew to deliver a replacement to a distant star gate that’s stopped working and whose station has gone silent.
Perfect set up for bad stuff to happen.
Parry creates tension and real thrills—not just when Tyche reaches its destination, but along the way. Hope demonstrates that she’s indeed a crackerjack engineer, saving the ship and her crewmates more than once. Grace’s esper abilities—though abhorred by everyone around her—allow the crew to discover the secret behind the threat once they reach the disabled star gate. (The Bugs from the film version of Heinlein's Starship Troopers are probably a distant cousin to these villains.)
If you like the alien mysteries and space battles that push the narrative in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet books, you’ll find plenty of elements in Tyche’s Flight to enjoy.
This story stands alone as an enjoyable SF adventure. It also opens up possibilities for the subsequent novels. The characters are interesting. The incidents are entertaining, and the action is engaging. I’ll be reading the next book in the series, Tyche’s Deceit.