Web Site: Essa Hansen
Bio: Essa Hansen grew up in beautifully wild areas of California, from the coastal foothills to the Sierra Nevada mountains around Yosemite, before migrating north to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. She has ranched bison and sheep, trained horses, practiced Japanese swordsmanship, and is a licensed falconer. She lives with her cat in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a sound designer for SF and fantasy films, her credits can be found on IMDB.
In this dark, dangerous, roller coaster of a debut, a young man sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across a breathtaking multiverse filled with aliens, mind-bending tech, and ships beyond his wildest imagining. Essa Hansen’s is a bold new voice for the next generation of science fiction readers. Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans. He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen is a genre defying story. It’s science fiction on the surface, but also fantasy, science fantasy, and space opera too. I couldn’t say if any of the technology is grounded in anything remotely close to current models or theories (it’s so fantastical that it can’t be). Yet technology is so incredibly pervasive in Hansen’s world that without it I almost don’t think she has a story. From the main character, Caiden, to his ship, the Azura, to the Cartographers to the nophek to the Casthen, everyone and everything is so intertwined with truly mind-blowing technology that without it I don’t know what would be left. But is this a bad thing? I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself.
The story is on an epic scale as is the world, or, rather, I should say the multiverse, since the world of Nophek Gloss is made up of a seemingly infinite number of universes, each with its own characteristics and oddities. All ships are capable of traveling from one universe to another, though only the Azura can create a universe all its own. The Azura is truly unique in this regard, and it’s odd that in such a vast multiverse that Caiden is the one who finds the ship given the the circumstances under which he discovers it. But I was willing to roll with that since it was necessary for the story.
Speaking of Caiden, he’s a likeable enough fourteen year old who is willing to sacrifice nearly everything to right the wrong that befalls him and his family early on. If he has any flaws, it’s his impatience. Time after time he rushes into a situation, comes out the worse for it, and doesn’t seem to learn his lesson. Not the best characteristic for a leading character. I would have liked to have seen him grow more over the course of the book. Instead he literally goes from fourteen to twenty-four in the span of a few pages thanks to an age enhancement process that conveniently also imbues him with ten years of the knowledge he needs to accomplish his goal. It’s a bit of a MacGuffin that was added just to move the story along quickly. Personally, I would have liked to have seen this play out in the normal fashion so we could actually witness the character mature.
The last discussion point I wanted to bring up about Nophek Gloss is the writing, which unfortunately seemed disjointed to me at times. It is a good story and it has all the right ingredients, but there were more than a few times where I had to scan back over the last couple of pages because I couldn’t figure out how a certain character was suddenly in a new place or had something change in their predicament. These brief moments of confusion could have been avoided with a bit more detail here and there. I am happy to say that as I read through the next book in the series, I have not experienced anything like this.
As I started with, this book is genre defying. If you’re looking for straight up science fiction or space opera or military science fiction, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you’re willing to indulge the author as she weaves a complicated story around some truly amazing technology, then Nophek Gloss may be the book for you.