The Second Star – Alma Alexander

The Second Star


The first interstellar scout ship disappeared, and humanity took decades to decide on another one. But when the second comes back, it brings with it the crew of the first - still astonishingly young, but seemingly fractured into multiple personalities. Dr. Stella Froud, assigned to find out what happened, is more concerned about why both crews are effectively incarcerated.


The concept of the book didn’t grip me, and that’s partly my fault. Some time ago, I read a collection of stories by Alma Alexander, Untranslatable. While I wasn’t bowled over by the collection as a whole, I thought her prose had promise, so when I saw this come available, I thought I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, I didn’t look too closely at the premise when I did.

The premise – a crew of returned astronauts whose minds have fragmented under the pressure of whatever they found – has elements of both psychological (there’s lots of discussion about multiple personalities, though mostly pretty generic) and thriller (how the doctor working with them can escape evil bureaucracy), neither of which is a genre that interests me. That’s my fault for not being more careful in book selection. While the story and its characters are carefully constructed, I found it very slow moving – one of those books I was reluctant to go back to.

The characters, while well developed, are on the stock side, and there’s relatively little surprise in the actions they take. At least one – a Native American with mysterious wisdom and special psychic senses, verges on cardboard. While the principal character has depth, the ending loses its way a bit, with an attempt to both wrap up loose ends and draw in a secondary character who until that point has played a supporting role.

Philosophically, the book is more interesting. There are some nice animal friendly moments. While the plot development is somewhat pedestrian, Alexander delves into faith and belief a little more than a book of this type normally would, though much of that is stuck in at the end as a bit of an afterthought. At the same time, her ending undermines the original theme of justice and right, and effectively betrays some characters through no fault of their own. While the protagonist stands up for self-determination at the beginning, she abandons that pretty thoroughly at the end.

Overall, the book feels long, and there’s a fair amount of repetition, from the protagonist constantly citing authority she may not have to descriptions of the central mystery and whether harm was caused intentionally. I got tired of what felt like the same scene repeated multiple times, with little forward motion. This is a story that might have worked better at novella or novelette length.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

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