ARC Review: The Year Before the End

***I received a free copy of this book from the author. My review has been completed voluntarily and is my honest opinion.***

Plot Summary

Aliens have finally made contact and seem to be interested in helping humanity join the larger galactic stage. However, many think the aliens have other nefarious ideas and are worried the building of a gate to connect Earth to the wider galaxy will bring nothing but conquest and domination from the stars. Amidst this backdrop, Zo learns of plans that the aliens will indeed attack Earth once the gate is built and agrees to have her crew participate in a mission to stop it. Along the way, she learns nothing is as it seems and not all people, even those close to you, can be trusted. Now she and her crew must run for their lives and attempt to prevent calamity from unfolding.

What I Liked

This was a solid science fiction story. I liked it’s take on what would happen if beings from other worlds made contact with humans. The various reactions described were very different, and it was a realistic approach to the topic. I think it is logical to assume some people would view the aliens as opportunity while others would see them as dangerous, and I enjoyed seeing the dynamic between the two factions play out throughout the novel. I also appreciated the amount of science present in this science fiction. I felt as though I understood what was going on, and how it was happening, fairly well thanks to the descriptions.

I enjoyed all the characters in this book, but I liked Zo and Clarice the most. They were the characters with the most background information. The rest of the crew were fun to read too, but I still felt like I didn’t really know them very well by the end of the book. With Zo, I enjoyed the backstory of how she became captain and liked how capably she led the crew. Clarice is probably my favorite, though, because I loved the exploration of how she integrated technology with her body.

The descriptions in this book were very detailed. The author did a great job making the battle and chase scenes feel realistic. There is plenty of action throughout the book, which keeps things fairly fast-paced for much of the story, especially the latter half. I also enjoyed author’s descriptions of locations, and I felt I was looking out at Mars with a vivid image in my mind. I loved the way he described the movement of the crew through the spaceships; it made me feel as though I was there bouncing around with them.

What I Didn’t Like

Even though I enjoyed the detail in the descriptions throughout the book, I found it made the book harder to read, especially the first half. There were parts that read almost like a technical manual rather than a novel. I had to take breaks or re-read some passages to fully understand or grasp the image or information trying to be conveyed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I enjoyed it once I wrapped my head around it, but sometimes it made the reading tedious.

I also did not like the romance in this book. Luckily, it played only a small part. However, the one major romance scene was seriously problematic. It was steeped in sexual harassment and applied the use of a power differential and intoxication to obtain companionship. I cringed while reading it and hope the author does better with future outings for these characters.

Final Thoughts

If you like science fiction that is heavy on science and descriptions of how things work, this is probably a great book for you. There is also plenty of great action, political intrigue, and interesting uses of technology. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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