I like how McNulty uses Solaris to capture artificial intelligence in a positive light. (I am a little afraid of how AI will affect our society in the future, but if our machines are going to be as sarcastic as Solaris, I may grow to like them!)
If you are looking for an action-packed fantasy series, then Solaris Seethes (Solaris Saga Book 1) is the book for you. Author Janet McNulty writes for the adventurous spirit by incorporating many popular ingredients of science fiction and fantasy such as time travel, artificial intelligence, and alien/human collaboration toward a common goal. This book is listed as young adult fiction, space opera and fantasy, but I would like to add a small warning in that the text briefly references sexual violence.
Rynah is devastated as she witnesses the destruction of her home planet, Lanyr. Amidst the dust crashing walls, she is surprised to see the attack is led by none other than her fiance, Klanor. Rynah can’t believe her eyes: Klanor had just proposed that morning! He begins to reveal his plan for control over the universe as he steals a powerful crystal from Lanyr’s high-security lab. As the dust settles, Rynah takes refuge in what looks to be a brand new spaceship. She doesn’t realize she’s found Solaris, her grandfather’s artificially intelligent spaceship.
Though she is determined to unhinge her former fiance’s plans for ultimate power, Rynah realizes she can’t do it alone. Solaris springs to life with a plan. She helps Rynah assemble a team of heroes from across Earth’s history: Alfric the Viking warrior, Solon the philosopher, Tom the inventor and Brie the tender-hearted. These strangers are gifted in their own way but are not used to working with others. Rynah has an especially hard time dealing with the pressures of leading a team. But despite her headstrong attitude, the group soon become somewhat of a family. They travel to diverse planets by way of Solaris in order to put a stop to Klanor’s ambitions for world domination.
Book 1 introduces an extensive quest among intergalactic heroes. Though a moderately short read, the book is very detailed. McNulty achieves this through great descriptive imagery when she writes: “[Rynah’] boots clopped against the stone floor as she raced for the exit, hoping to escape the rage her planet flung at her” (18) and “Water spouted from a pipe protruding from the blistered ground…” (93).
McNulty creates detail by treating the A.I. spaceship, Solaris, as an active character of the plot as well as an expository plot tool. For example, Solaris stands in as a parental figure and scolds Rynah for disrespecting her: “Don’t you dare talk to me like that, you ungrateful rugrat. Marlow, your grandfather, created me while you were still playing with toys. Now I want you to apologize” (38). In the same virtual “breath,” she is able to share her extensive knowledge base, which serves as a link between the past, present, and future: “A screen in Rynah’s room flashed to life as images swept across it and two giant planets soared by…Rynah remembered the stories about how her people had wandered the universe once before settling in the Lanyran Sector. Tales told of how they had chanced upon a blue planet–uninteresting at best and overrun by savage beasts–and used it as a place to dispose of their garbage, conduct repairs, or what some might call, a pit stop (44). I like how McNulty uses Solaris to capture artificial intelligence in a positive light. (I am a little afraid of how A.I. will affect our society in the future, but if our machines are going to be as sarcastic as Solaris, I may grow to like them!)
The detailed descriptions in this book make for a great first installment in the Solaris Saga. However, there are a few grammar fixes I’ll suggest to further improve the text. The first issue I noticed was McNulty’s rampant use of parentheses. Sometimes, using parentheses made sense, but much of the time, they felt intrusive based on their placement within the sentence. For example when McNulty writes “clung to the cool (a sensation that surprised her) railing as she regained her balance” (95) the sentence is jerky. If she were to instead write “clung to the surprisingly cool railing as she regained her balance,” the sentence would be smoother and more succinct. Similar parenthetical dilemmas occur on page 321, 112, 242, and 448.
This observation leads to my next suggestion to break up large sections of descriptive text. As this is a young adult novel, sentences should be less complex than in the following excerpt from page 226: “Laughter spilled from the mess hall (a simple area with a long counter that lined one side with a hot plate, microwave oven, and polished, steel cabinets, and an aluminum table on the opposite side) amidst the clinking of forks as everyone gathered for supper, a meal consisting of rehydrated protein and vegetables—none of which tasted savory—and filtrated water.” There’s a lot of description here which can be drawn out a bit as to not lose any detail.
Considering McNulty’s gift for detailed storytelling, but also her grammatical choices, I rate this book 3 out of 4. The last small group of suggestions is regarding missing words and errors in word choice. I will conclude with the following table, which includes suggestions for improving phrasing/fluency (feel free to skip this and get to reading the book!):
||Suggestion for Improvement
|“…until a time when it could put back where it belonged” (12).
||“…until a time when it could be put back to where it belonged.”
|“It was as though he had locked all of emotions away” (14).
||“It was a though he had locked all his emotions away.”
|“Every member of the Lunyra Movement have the same insignia tattooed on their neck” (83).
||“Every member of the Lunyra Movement had the same insignia tattooed on their neck.”
|“racking” / “racked” (25, 440)
||“wracking” / “wracked”
|“…leaving Klanor to stem in his anger as the fire erupted from his spacecraft” (116).
||“…leaving Klanor to stew in his anger as the fire erupted from his spacecraft”
|“Then you have nothing for which to be ashamed of” (221).
||“Then you have nothing for which to be ashamed.”
McNulty, Janet. Solaris Seethes (Solaris Saga Book 1). MMP Publishing, young adult science fiction space opera & fantasy, 2014. Kindle file.