On Andross Station by J.C. Long

On Andross Station felt like reading sci-fi light. It was essentially a standard race-against-the-clock mystery with the set decorations of a sci-fi story.

If it weren’t for the swearing and some violence, I would say that it would probably make a nice, palatable entry into the genre for a younger reader. As it was, there was strong language, violence, and enough sexual content to put it pretty firmly into the range of adult or new adult and to leave me wondering exactly who this novella would work for.

The plot itself was tepid and fairly predictable. Given that it was a novella, it might be tempting to want to let that slide a little bit. The author has a limited set of time and words to get across the plot, true, but I’ve read novellas with outstanding worldbuilding and even plot twists that managed to surprise me. I don’t want to give a pass to the lack-luster plot because of the length. Nothing about the plot of On Andross Station really stood out to me as memorable or noteworthy. The two main characters meet up, they do some basic detective work, they figure things out, they take a few naps… not really much else. Not every story needs to have action or shocking twists, but the lack of overall tension within the narrative made it really hard for me to get into.

On the plus side, I really liked both of the main characters, especially Hikaru the straight-laced and serious Inquisitor. He’s a mind-reader, but it’s an imperfect and occasionally debilitating skill that has largely forced him into social isolation since it makes people around him uncomfortable. That’s a really cool idea, but I didn’t think it was explored quite enough. I also would have liked to hear more about Hikaru’s backstory and his family life. The same goes for Thane, who was also an interesting character with a compelling-sounding backstory that was only tantalizingly hinted at. I never really felt like I got to know either character beyond a very shallow sense of what they were doing at this moment in their lives. On the plus side, I think it says something good about the writing that I really wanted to know more and I wish I would have gotten that!

In addition to some cool characters, there were also so really clever and creative world-building details that I really liked. I especially loved the inclusion of some alien linguistics, and I thought that the way the Iluxan language was described and then eventually used in dialog was really awesome. I loved that detail, and thought it was doled out in just the right amount. Too much of it probably would have gotten annoying quickly, but I loved what I saw.

As a standalone I didn’t think On Andross Station had enough of any one thing to really satisfy me. It felt a lot like setup to a larger story, and if it turns out that that’s what it is then I can see this eventually turning into a really interesting world and a great cast of characters. Otherwise, I was left kind of disappointed that there wasn’t a little bit more – either plot, character, or world-building – for me to latch on to.

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