The Year Before the End: Deceit and betrayal have put not just their lives on the line, but the future of humanity (Sovereign Earth Book 1)
I was offered this book to review by the author’s publicist – thank you to Henry Roi PR and Norwegian author Vidar Hokstad. My opinions are my own and my review is honest.
The Year Before the end is the first novel in the Sovereign Earth series and is this author’s debut. For a Science Fiction book it is fairly short at 235 pages (according to Amazon) and was therefore a fairly quick read.
I did find myself getting distracted in the early part of the book as a heck of a lot of information was given all at once and I found it kicked me out of the narrative. Once the main story got going I was glad I persevered, however, as the action-packed heist that takes place on a space station, undertaken by the crew of the cargo ship Black Rain was highly enjoyable!
The heist itself had echoes of both Star Wars – with smuggling compartments being used to hide in, and Mission Impossible with the crew using magnetic devices to climb a spire within the space station and one person’s magnetic device failing.
The background to this fast-paced heist is that humans have colonized Mars and aliens have made contact. These aliens have been around for a long time and already have well-established trade routes and jump gates situated in deep space. They are casting around looking for new trade partners and hit upon the Mars outpost. The humans need to complete a jump gate for which the aliens have given them specifications before they can meet each other in person. The ‘End’ of the title refers to the completion date of this project. There are plenty of people who are against the completion of the gate, including the Sovereign Earth organization who believe as soon as the gate is ready aliens will flood through it and invade Mars. The item the crew is stealing is supposed to prove this:
“They said it was evidence of plans for invasion by the Centauri. With physical evidence to prove that is where it’s from.”
I really liked the characters of Captain Zara Ortega, known as ZO and her first officer, the cybernetically enhanced Clarice Morgan. Clarice has voluntarily had her eyes replaced with cybernetics and these were a fantastic asset and very intriguing!
Sebastian Terrell, the bad guy was also a great character, obsessed with Captain Nemo from 40,000 Leagues Under the Sea, he has decorated his space station to look exactly like the inside of Nemo’s submarine. He is a major financial contributor to Sovereign Earth and a despicable person:
“Once we take down the Mars separatists, the colony will accept it needs us. When the Mars separatists fall, all the colonies will fall back into line.”
There were also some plot twists towards the end of the book which were unexpected and well executed. I am keen to see what happens to these characters in book 2, Galaxy Bound, and will continue reading in the hopes that there are less ‘info dumps’ now that the world has been established. I also hope the editing is a little better next time – however this is a good story and worth a read!
About the Author
Vidar Hokstad grew up in Oslo, Norway. He has been writing for himself most of his life, but focused on a career in technology. The Year Before the End is his first published novel. He lives in London with his son.