Gabriel’s Redemption by Steve Umstead

This is a basic hard Sci-Fi shoot-em-up, with plenty of hi-tech weaponry and high-rolling manpower (and womanpower) to wield it.

   The setting is the near future, when an asteroid strike has realigned the world’s power blocs. Umstead gives us just enough “historical” detail to make a satisfying background, without boring us with unnecessary detail.

   This is the story of Evan Gabriel, a disgraced Special Forces Commander, set up to take the fall for the upper brass in a no-win situation on a distant planet. At the beginning of the story he is rudely yanked from his “retirement” in the Caribbean to head another team for another project, on another world. The presence of a former enemy in the briefing room cues Gabriel that nothing is as simple as it seems, but the chance to regain his reputation is too good to pass up. He takes the challenge, and the race is on.

   Working minute-by-minute, Gabriel must keep ahead of the bad guys long enough to find out what is really going on. The mission is moving smoothly until a couple of 90 degree turns get thrown into the plot, and then everything is up for grabs. Once again, it is up to this resourceful officer to solve the problem, overcome overwhelming odds, and use the skills of his new team to win through. The title leaves us in no doubt as to the outcome this time.

Plenty of reader empathy for the main character makes for some good suspenseful moments and, in general, a satisfying read. The other strength of this book, which Umstead’s target readership will appreciate, is his attention to detail on his weaponry and space gear. Those with less interest in high tech might like the plot to move on a little faster.

   In fact, this is the main weakness of the novel. The long prologue and extensive exposition slow the first 100 pages down considerably. Once the physical action starts, things roll along well.

   Another point, one that will perhaps not bother his chosen readership, is the lack of professional editing. A myriad of minor technical errors, unneeded point-of-view switches, and other simple mistakes, of the type that no author can pick up 100% himself, distract a more discerning reader from the flow of the story.

   To sum up: a good action story with great details for the hard sci-fi crowd. Most appropriate for young male readers who want powerful role models, simple, charismatic, characters, and a suspenseful plotline. Readers looking for more depth will appreciate the fine attention to detail, in both setting and characterization.

About the Author: Gordon Long

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