Echoes of Starlight Review
Echoes of Starlight is the first book in a new series by Eric Michael Craig. The Wings of Earth series is set in the same universe as the Shan Takhu Legacy series, but is set about a hundred years after the events of that series. Captain Ethan Walker is the captain and lease holder on the Olympus Dawn, an ordinary cargo freighter. He is a man trying to do a simple job – deliver his cargo of material and passengers to Starlight, a planet in the Kepler 186 system. But things quickly go sideways for Captain Walker and his crew as the navigation beacon for the Starlight colony is offline. When they arrive at the planet they cannot reach anybody on the colony and find no signs of life. Captain Walker must make some critical decisions as he and his crew struggle not only with the mystery of a missing colony, but also the strict rules for handling cargo. As Walker is forced into making decisions that violate his contract, he risks ending his career to find out what has happened on Starlight.
Echoes of Starlight really should have been subtitled “Captain Walker and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Delivery”. From the beginning Walker is put into a very tenuous position as the captain of a cargo vessel. His responsibility is to his crew and cargo – especially the cargo, as his Cargo Compliance Controller (Triple C) Leigh Salazar constantly reminds him. In fact, the Triple C has the power to remove Walker from his position as Captain if he violates company policy. So as the simple mission of delivering the cargo and passengers goes awry Walker’s life, and his career, quickly spiral out of control. I really loved this story for the contradictions it presents. Walker’s mission is simple – on the surface not anything to write home about – but it quickly becomes very complex with lives and careers on the line and how he handles everything really defines his character. You get to know him and the reasons for his decisions (right or wrong) and this makes Walker become a character you care about and root for. I could easily relate to his situation, and I would have struggled with the choices he had to make, and that makes for a compelling story. Per usual with Eric’s stories there is no “bad guy” and nobody is doing anything out of malice or for “evil” purposes. It is just people doing their jobs as they best feel they can do them; how they react when the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the rules no longer apply defines their character and makes for an exciting, character-driven story.
I highly recommend Echoes of Starlight. While there is almost no action (no thrilling space combat or alien encounters), Captain Walker’s story, and the events that play out in the book, make for great reading and stand up to the best science fiction out there. Eric Michael Craig has delivered an outstanding character-driven story that pulls you in and makes you care about what happens when ordinary people are forced into extraordinary situations.