The 5th Division, Jason’s Story

Another retro review, from November 1, 2011, of another self-published work.

I don’t have anything automatically against self-published work. I’ve enjoyed some.

This was not one of them.

It’s also another story that has no Smashword or Amazon distribution.

Review: The 5th Division, Jason’s Story, Rami Najib, 2011.The 5th Division

This story doesn’t really work on any level.

I don’t want to harp on minor issues, but the story is badly punctuated as far as commas go. While I’ve seen plenty of native English speakers punctuate their writing badly, there are also some odd word choices which make me think English is not the writer’s first language.

Those are minor problems, something that can be fixed with the help of an editor.

Conceptually, though, this story has problems. It really is sort of four stories crammed together in an unbalanced way. The title implies that this may be set in a universe of other stories about the 5th Division, but I could find no evidence of that. The interstellar empire of Earth sends the 5th Division to Sica29 because it has the militarily strategic metals of aluminum, gold, copper. While that reason may satisfy many viewers of a science fiction action movie, it’s too dumb to satisfy a lot of science fiction readers. They rightly suspect that either future weapons will rely on other materials or that there are easier ways to get those materials than invasion.

There is the slaughter of all his comrades, escape in a life pod, and then a long interlude with Jason falling in love with an alien woman on the world that pod lands on. Now, while this is an old plot idea (I can think of examples going back at least to the 1930s in science fiction pulps), it can still work. And the idea that part of this world was settled by humans from the eastern Roman Empire who hopped aboard an alien ship they found was intriguing. But it doesn’t go anywhere. Discussion of a substance which confers long life is confusing, another story element not really incorporated into the whole piece.

When we leave this incident – the story takes place over 43 years, Jason encounters complications upon his return to Earth. Why he is greeted the way he is and what happened to the 5th Division is never explained.

I suspect Najib might have been going for one of two things: an exploration of the psychological dislocation a veteran of interstellar war might experience upon returning to Earth in the manner of parts of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War or a look at the sad life of a man whose spends his life buffeted by the intrigues and plots and power struggles of others and who knows only a brief bit of happiness in its middle. That is not, however, the story the reader actually finds here.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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