Book review: MYLEA, the journey begins (Mylean Universe Chronicles), by Philip Elrod

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The Mylean people have a problem; their planet is doomed due to a clash of galaxies. Fortunately, their most brilliant scientist, a being called Tanaka, has an audacious plan to save them. If they can’t move their population to a new world, then they’ll move the whole planet instead to a new star system.

To this end, they build a mini Dyson sphere (as in that episode of Star Trek: TNG with Scotty in) around their planet, create an artificial sun and bolt some engines on the side. Just building it will take many decades, even with the Mylean’s advanced gravity wave technology. To pilot and maintain the huge ship throughout the journey they build a huge computer called Maxx, plus a secondary AI to act as its conscience and stop it doing a SkyNet on everyone.
Thousands of years pass, but due to a bureaucratic oversight Maxx finds himself unable to complete his mission without a specific DNA sample, which he needs to briefly override the conscience AI. Luckily, one of his deep space probes finds a planet where, with a bit of genome fiddling, he might well find a replacement…

I’ll start off by saying that Mylea is a very well written novel, with a high attention to detail in its descriptions of the technology, Mylea itself and the characters. I really like the cover too!

The first section of the novel, which reads a bit like a materials and methods section of a scientific journal article, is dedicated to the Mylean people and the construction of the interstellar transporter for their planet. I found this very detailed and interesting, and every time I had a question about the plan it was usually answered in the next page. The only thing that wasn’t explained was where they got the raw materials for the sphere (apologies if it did and I missed it) – that much real estate is going to take *a lot* of metal.
I’m not a physicist so I have no idea if any of it is theoretically possible or not, but it doesn’t really matter (it’s science *fiction* after all!).

For the molecular biology part, the book does a good job of getting around certain issues by explaining why Tanaka uses an SNP/structural variant panel rather than a full genome sequence check. This does beg the question that with all the technology available why Maxx doesn’t just synthesise the various blocks of DNA he needs for the verification, but that’s just a minor plot hole.
The first section also acts as an extended prologue, outlining the problems that Maxx faces in completing his mission. The only real problem with this approach is that the plot is laid bare right at the beginning, and so as readers we know a lot more than the characters do at any given time. I feel it would have worked better if the first section was drip-fed throughout the rest of the story, as we would have then had the same voyage of discovery and sense of excitement as the people in it.

Character-wise, there are only a few main players in the book; Jim Slater, who works for the scientific advisor for national security, two astronomers who detect the alien craft and Tom, a mysterious figure who’s grooming Jim for some great purpose. I thought Tom was a bit smug despite his good intentions, and it will be interesting to see what happens to him and his plan in the overall story (can’t say anything else without spoilers). Even Jim’s dog is well fleshed out and has a very typical ‘small dog’ mentality.
The battle of wits between Tom and Maxx as they manoeuvre and negotiate is very interesting, both of them trying to predict what the other will do and how to get the upper hand. Tom knows what potentially is at stake, giving those particular scenes an air of a very high-pressure game of chess.

My main issue with MYLEA, however, is one of pacing and structure. By the time the description of the construction of the transporter and three characters have been introduced, the book is already over forty percent through. I fully understand that this is the first part of a series, but to me, the whole novel felt structured as a first act, rather than the first part of a larger whole with its own internal ebb and flow. Consequently, while everything is intriguingly set up for future instalments, there isn’t a sense of high urgency or revelatory moments as the story is set out in the first section.

The above sounds like quite a lot of moaning considering the positive score at the bottom, but this is a problem with my expectations rather than the book itself. I base my reviews not only on if I enjoy something, but if I think it does what it sets out to do well. This is a slow paced, highly descriptive and deliberate piece of science fiction, and it would not be right for me to mark it down just because it didn’t have enough action or ‘OMG!’ moments for me.

Mylea asks you to come along for the ride and to enjoy the whole journey, rather than focusing on the destination.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next, and whether the next episode is a direct continuation or a related new story in the same setting.

Rating: 4 / 5

Disclaimer and disclosure. This book was bought by me from Amazon.co.uk through BooksGoSocial.com. All opinions are my own, and I am receiving no payment for the review, either by financial or review-swap means.

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