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Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Deuces Wild: Beginners' Luck" Review

On the surface, Deuces Wild: Beginners' Luck by L. S. King is a good, old-fashion, space opera story full of adventure with a touch of humor that most, if not all, will enjoy. Are there are explosions? Yes! Battles? A plenty! Spacey technology? Yep, but the story doesn't get bogged down in it. Aliens? You bettcha, including their cultures and a believable world.

But there are two other details needed to make a book of any kind interesting: plot and characters.

On the plot front, the story consist of the two main characters, Slap and Tristan, who confront the Mordas, a Mafia-like group controlling Slap's planet. The Mordas attempt to steal the settlers' land, even if it means killing. Slap's loss of his wife and children at their hands leads to meeting Tristan at the beginning of the story. Their two fates become intertwined with interesting results as they attempt to avoid capture, or are busy rescuing one another from capture. Along the way, they meet a respectable cast of secondary characters and adventures that adds spice to the tale and moves the story forward. In the end, they return for a final confrontation with the self-appointed organization controlling Slap's planet in a satisfying battle.

The plot is standard fare, but L. S. King puts enough of her own spin on it to keep it interesting. However, if this was the extent of the book, it wouldn't be enough to make it stand out. What really causes this to rise above your average space opera tale are the two characters. King has taken pains to paint two very three-dimensional characters who you'd never expect to become friends. They don't even expect themselves to become friends. But by the end of the book, they know it and the reader knows it. But what does a mercenary with a hidden past and agenda, and a moral cowboy-like family man have in common? On the surface, not much, but the fun is in watching them find out that real friendship has roots that dig under the surface of differences and bind them to one another. Then when events force them to make a decision, they discover their bond brings them to one another's aid—because they care.

The real joy of this book is in watching that friendship unfold and tested between these two endearing characters. For me, it is what makes this book worth reading. The interesting plot, the space and planetary backdrop and cultures, the adventure and explosions, are all icing on the cake, making this book one well-rounded story that few would regret plunking down the money to read.

There are some minor drawbacks to note. For me, it took a while to get into the story with the switching between the two main characters frequently. One character per chapter would have made it easier. That said, the confusion was temporary. Once I read further in and the two story lines became more solidified in my head, I had no problem. Most of the time the switches were done well, but I think it was the frequency of them that made getting a handle on the story more difficult, at first.

There were also spots where it was too easy to lose who was talking, but that didn't happen frequently. And a minor info-hiding toward the end of the story. It could be justified and was minor enough it didn't distract from the story, but it was info hiding.

Positives aside from what I've mentioned above is solid writing—it never distracted me from the story but pulled me into it. The printing is of good quality, and a snappy cover that while giving a picture of the two characters and is a cool graphic, doesn't accomplish much more, but fun to look at.

I recommend this as a good read for most anyone. While set in a science fiction world, the story itself is one anyone can identify with. For space opera lovers, this is a must read—a prime example of an exciting but well-rounded adventure. I fully enjoyed it, and I bet you'll not regret picking this one up.

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