I know what sci-fi is—robots, aliens, epic laser shootouts, spaceships, and endless mind-numbingly boring explanations of “science” that hasn’t happened yet (hence the “fiction” part). And I know YA sci-fi too— dystopian, apocalypse, dystopian apocalypse… So when I started reading S. Alex Martin’s sci-fi novel, Embassy, my expectations were not high. There was the fact that the young author penned his debut novel while still in high school, that his last name isn’t Heinlein, Clarke, or Asimov, and that I don’t really read much sci-fi any more.
Want to see just how wrong I was? Please join my guest, author S. Alex Martin, as he talks about his life and work, and then check out my review below of his debut novel, Embassy.
Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly? Well, I’ve never seen Firefly — but everyone tells me to watch it. I’d have to say Star Trek…and not the original series. The new movies. I didn’t grow up on Star Trek, but the diplomatic negotiation, technology, and space exploration really appeal to me.
Worst movie ever? The Last Airbender. I was only able to get through 26 minutes of it before I turned it off.
Best guilty pleasure ever? Oreo cookies. You need to hide the package from me or they WILL be gone in two days, flat.
What is the one thing you can’t live without? My thoughts. I like them.
As a child (or now!), what did you want to do when you grew up? Go to space. And thanks to Elon Musk, that’s going to happen.
Are the names of the characters in your novels significant? Some are, some aren’t. I tend to go by how they sound rather than what they mean. But when I did draw off names with meaning, I chose to take most from the Czech. Kind of random, but hey.
What is the single biggest challenge of creating the settings in your novels? Showing the diversity of the planets, not just on a single planet, but spread around the galaxy. Creating a unique world structured to that individual society. It’s fun, but it takes time to tamp it down.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? Turn off the internet and force yourself to write.
S. Alex Martin’s love of astronomy has become the foundation for many of his stories. At 21 years old, he attends college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he studies English, Physics, and Math. He grew up with Harry Potter and German Shepherds. Martin also runs the Get it Write Tonight blog. In May, Martin was the Keynote Speaker at a high school graduation ceremony, in which he was specifically asked to relate the themes of Embassy to the transition from high school to college and other areas of life.
BlurbArman Lance was supposed to travel the galaxy with his father, not watch him die. He was supposed to experience the adventures from his father’s stories, not isolate himself from the world. He was going to join the Embassy Program, fly across the galaxy, and find Ladia Purnell, a girl from another planet with whom he had a summer fling years before.Clinging to his fading hopes and dreams, Arman joins the Embassy Program to fulfill that last promise. If he can reach Ladia, he’ll never have to worry, never have to feel alone. But it doesn’t take long for his plan to fall apart when he’s confronted by his fellow Embassy recruit, Glacia Haverns, the eversmiling adrenaline junkie who decides it’s her job to show Arman there’s more to life than chasing a desperate obsession.
- Book Title: Embassy (Recovery Book 1)
- Author: S. Alex Martin
- Genre: NA Sci-Fi
- Length: 356 pages
- Release Date: October 10, 2014
Contact Links For S. Alex Martin
My Review: 4 out of 5 stars for S. Alex Martin’s Embassy
Embassy introduces Arman Lance, a young man attending his father’s funeral. That would be the famous father whose too-brief visits between saving-the-galaxy heroics were the highlight of his son’s life. The father who had groomed his son for a similar career of interstellar adventure as a member of the governing Embassy Program. The father who was killed in a senseless accident while Arman was at the wheel of their car. Twenty-year-old Arman has lived for years with a two-part goal: make it into the Embassy Program, and through that make it to the planet Belvun, home of the girl he fell in love with four years ago. In his single-minded drive to achieve those goals, Arman has cut himself off from almost every tie to his home planet, including relationships, experiences, and friendships. But he’s confused by what happens when he succeeds, as both his goals and emotions are challenged by fellow Embassy recruits, especially the adrenalin-fueled Glacia Haverns, who seems determined to drag the unwilling Arman back into the world.
In trying to rate Embassy, I thought about the things that worked. This is a story about a typical teenager. He makes bad choices, falls in love, feels misunderstood and isolated, and reacts in sullen withdrawal. His enemies aren’t aliens or agents of an evil, repressive government. For some reason, humans have destroyed the Earth, and in a self-imposed penance and attempt to recover it, they are attempting to transform every planet they come across in the image of their lost home. “Earth was perfect, but its beauty set humanity’s standards too high.” He rubs his knee, flexing his frail fingers. “Why else do you think we would go around terraforming every dead planet?” Embassy is the story of Arman’s journey—both the physical journey through space to reunite with his lost love, and the emotional journey through his anger at being abandoned by the father he idolized and the girl he loved. It’s impossible not to like kickass Glacia, who is determined to befriend Arman in spite of his best efforts to keep her out. And the world that Martin builds so carefully here is drawn with beautiful, spare precision that lets you picture the desert planet’s triangular city, the uncomfortable routine of shipboard travel, the imposed beauty and rampaging assault of the terraformed Belvun.
There were a few things that seemed out of place for me. Foremost among them is the concept that recruits barely twenty years old, and with a few weeks of Embassy training, would be assigned roles such as planetary ambassador, starship pilot, etc. Also, it took a long time for me to warm up to Arman, who is frankly about as self-centered, judgmental, and annoying as possible for at least the first half of the story.
This is the first book of a planned series, so it’s not surprising that there are clues about what comes next. Instead, the surprise for me came in the subtly beautiful way the clues are placed. There is a small volume called “Earth as It Was” which turns up often, but is never read. There are suggestions that the terraforming has political motivation and ramification. And there are subtle, intriguing hints that the planet Belvun might be fighting back, attempting to reject the human image being imposed on it, as if rejecting Eden with all its promise of beauty and innocence.
In the end, I’d give Embassy four stars. It’s an arresting achievement in world building, an impressive debut novel, and an absolute indicator that S. Alex Martin is a writer to watch.*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Victoria pulls out her holotab and taps an application, activating the miniature projectors lining the edge of the device. A data orb shimmers above the screen, which she pokes with a silver stylus. It flattens into a square.
“You first, Miss Haverns. Hold out your hand.”
Glacia does as she’s told, and the projectors scan an image of her palm and fingers. Her face and name flicker on the holotab screen.
“Great. Arman, you next.”
We each hold our hands over the screen so the system can register us. After Michael finishes, Victoria logs the information and stands up. “Follow me.”
She walks out the door and leads us to a stairwell a few yards down the hall. The room at the top is a sort of observatory. Sunlight brightens the floor and cool air pours from vents in the back wall. When we walk to the front of the room, Glacia and Ellin gasp, and John sticks his hands back on the window.
A city sits alone in the desert. It adorns the sun-baked plain, and it is the most magnificent sight I have ever seen.
The Undil Embassy.
For last week’s Lie-dar, Astrid would have finished the statement—”Something my readers might not know about me is…”
I used to live at an animal rescue shelter
Congratulations to Georgia Rose, winner of a copy of At Death’s Door for her correct guess.