Alright! I finally finished The Mutineers. I originally thought it would take a week, instead it took a month. The reason why will likely become obvious in the review. Either way, I apologize for the long delay between reviews. I’m sure you’ll also note that this is the first of the Indie reviews I mentioned back when I did the first Vintage review. I now have a list of several such indie works that I intend to review in time. Now, on to the review!
So, I selected this single indie work out of the writhing morass of such novels primarily on the strength of its premise. That it had apparently been nominated for an award didn’t hurt, but wasn’t really all that meaningful to me personally. No, it was the well written blurb, reminiscent to me of the various iterations of Mutiny on the Bounty. As I always enjoyed that particular story, it seemed a promising omen to see something that looked similar in concept put into a science fiction setting. Sadly, I was ultimately disappointed in the result. As always, I will address the three points of Settings, Characters/Characterization, and Plot. However, for these indie reviews I also want to make mention of technical execution. It will not be part of the scoring, but it is relevant for self-published works and therefore I feel I ought to mention it.
In this book’s case, I’m going to knock out the technical execution bit first. In part, because it’s mostly a positive. While the book was in dire need of a content editor (I’ll cover why in the Plot section), there were vanishingly few technical errors throughout the work. In point of fact, I would call the technical editing of the work very close to on-par with any traditionally published novel. The author also handled other various bits, such as perspective switches, with fair aplomb deserving of mention. From a technical standpoint, I’ve seen far more experienced authors produce far worse. If you choose to read the novel, have no fear of the sort of egregious errors and typos that are all too common in self-published fiction. That is no small feat for any indie author and I commend Mills for managing it.
Moving onto the setting, I have to admit that this is probably the high-point of the work. First, while there are a few tiny hard-science flaws scattered through the novel, for the most part the science is sound and there is quite a lot of it. That’s good. What’s even better is the sheer scope of the world building and the detail that the author clearly put into creating all the backdrop. There is a lot of detail, and that detail is well researched and thought through. Launch windows are considered for trips to Mars, an entire world government is depicted with warts and all, and there is clearly a lot of thought put into all of the space-born industry mentioned both in detail and in passing throughout the book. Sadly, for all that I like the effort but in, there is a bit too much development of the setting. Detail about the setting swamps out both the action and the character development to such a degree that it quickly becomes an active drag on the novel’s pacing. I like hard sci-fi, and I’m the sort that actively reads all the appendices and then hits up the wiki for good measure. So when I tell you that I had to fight desperately not to start skimming over setting detail less than halfway through the book…well, it’s not a good sign.
Characters. Blarg. Technically, there isn’t anything wrong with the characters. There are simply too bloody many of them. Far too many of them. Thankfully, despite that fact, none of them actually come off as flat or two-dimensional. However, in the massive roster of characters, there was only a single one that stood out enough for me to actually care about her (Alex Bremer). The rest were ultimately fairly underdeveloped and dull, a fate created by the sheer number of them reducing their proverbial ‘screen time’ to unworkable levels. Worse, many of them didn’t need to be there and contributed badly to the nonsensical rambling and meandering of the central narrative. There were characters who were introduced, chewed up an entire long chapter, and then were absolutely never important to anything, ever. Given the problems with the plot that I’ll get into in a moment, this was a bad thing. That the majority of the characters also seemed to lack the common-sense God gave a chipmunk, did not help my opinion of them.
The plot. Oh dear God, where do I start? As far as I can tell, there really wasn’t a main plot. The book read more like a poorly structured documentary than a fiction work, and even then it meandered to the point of painful confusion. I mentioned earlier that the book badly needed a content editor, and the horrifically and agonizingly slow pacing is the reason for that. I decent content editor would likely have ruthlessly ripped out at least 100-150 pages of the novel out, without removing anything even remotely important, and massively improved the overall result. Between the pointless characters and their perspectives, a serious case of attention deficit disorder regarding who the story was actually about, and the overabundance of intricate detail regarding the setting, I crawled through the book. After the first 150 pages or so, returning to pick the novel up again was a chore. By the time I hit 300 I actively dreaded it, but couldn’t call any one thing bad enough to add it to the DNF pile. By the end of the book…I had to give myself a few days to feel I could actually give an honest review instead of ranting. That last bit, by the way, is entirely because nothing actually gets resolved at the end of 460 odd pages. Basically, the climax never appears and the book just kinda ends in a half-hearted fashion that left me near ripping my hair out. Had the ending been amazing, had it wrapped all the loose ends up in some spectacular fashion, I was fully prepared to forgive the novel its faults. As it is…not so much.
Ultimately, the setting was sound but there was far too much of it in relation to the other bits, and none of the characters were outright horrible. However, both the lack of a cohesive plot and the rambling nature of the novel left me tasting ashes.
Final Rating Breakdown:
Score Adjustments for Misc:
-1 for horrifically excruciating pacing
Final Score: 5/10
Personal Recommendation: Ehhhh, as much as I hate to do this to a fellow indie author, I just can’t recommend it. If you don’t mind a super-slow read, you might give it a shot, particularly if you have kindle unlimited. Otherwise, I’d give it a skip.