By: Matt Williams
Publisher: Azore's Crown Publishing
Publication Date: April 2010
Reviewed by: Eloise Michael
Review Date: September 17, 2010
If you thought that Han Solo was the real hero of Star Wars, then Jak Phoenix, a novel by Matt Williams, is for you. Jak and his partner, Baxter, are space pirates traveling the Azore's Crown Galaxy in an outdated ship called The Tempest. The ship constantly needs repairs on the fly, partly because it is old and pieced together from several different ships, and partly because of the scrapes that are common to the life of a space pirate.
Williams' characters are familiar archetypes of science fiction. Jak is irreverent and prefers to work no harder than is necessary to feed himself and to stock the bar on The Tempest. His treatment of women is obnoxious. Then along comes a woman strong enough to turn Jack around. Jak's friends are mechanics and engineers who get by on their intelligence and the ability to collect and make use of what others see as junk. There is, as well, the typical assortment of villains-- from weak and servile to evil-cyborg-scientist to megalomaniac.
Williams breathes new life into these archetypes, thoroughly developing each character, not with lengthy descriptions, but through the characters' actions and conversations. Readers will have no trouble keeping the characters straight; Williams creates lasting images of their physical appearances while at the same time revealing their motivations. As readers get to know the characters, they will find themselves liking and identifying with Jak and his friends.
Above all, what makes Jak Phoenix a good book is the pacing. Williams brilliantly balances action with plot and character development throughout the book. There is never a dull moment, whether Jak and his friends are outmaneuvering attackers in space, boarding an enemy ship, fighting robotic soldiers, or outwitting captors.
Though the action never lets up, the plot of Jak Phoenix always continues to move forward at an engaging pace. The details that Williams includes in the middle of all this action will create vivid pictures in his readers' minds. Readers will get hooked early and want to stay with the book to find out what happens.
The plot is fairly simple; Jak must rescue a race of aliens-- perhaps the whole galaxy-- from an evil mastermind who has quietly been building armies in a corner of the galaxy. It is a tried-and-true plot line, and it's simplicity works in Williams' favor. Readers of science fiction want an alternate universe, which is believable, characters with whom they can identify (even if they happen to be aliens), and a story that will keep them turning the pages. Williams easily achieves all three within the context of a plot which, like his characters, is original enough to be memorable but sticks to a basic formula that works.
Williams' grammar is not always perfect, and his sentences are occasionally awkward. This does not interfere with the story, however. If Williams' style is a little rough around the edges, it complements Jak, himself, who chooses practicality over appearances. The narrator's voice reads the way an average science fiction fan might talk, which many will find appealing. Readers will find this well-crafted novel diverting, will want to recommend it to a friend, and will look forward to Jak Phoenix's next adventure.
Quill says: Perfectly paced to keep science fiction fans absorbed and engaged.
For more information on Jak Phoenix, please visit the book's website at: www.jakphoenix.com