What a lineup of authors! This, and the format of a serial space opera where every author wrote a chapter a week in a round robin fashion, drew me in. Serialbox publishes books like a streaming series: one season consists of ten episodes, and the second season of Vela takes off right now.
The star of a solar system is at the very end of its lifespan, outer planets are freezing and a refugee crisis hits the inner planets. Spaceship Vela is one of the refugee transporters, but it’s gone lost.
The series starts with a loud bang – a visiting General is threatened to get assassinated and has to be rescued. The main protagonists, sniper Asala and hacker kid Niko get introduced and shine in their heroic roles.
After this short interlude, they get the real mission to find The Vela again and lead it to rescue. A journey through the solar system starts with many twists and turns, a prison break-in, a whole war and mysterious technology.
I’m no stranger to serial narrations, as I’ve been invested for several years into the longest running SF serial Perry Rhodan which produces 64 pages each and every week since 1961. Those guys know how to evolve a tension arc over several issues and separate work between authors. I have a certain expectation with this format.
And it wasn’t met, sadly. First of all, each of the ten episodes tells a conclusive story, and I found them to be equally fine. The setting is interesting, though I had to scratch my head somewhat over the idea of harvesting a star leading to bleed it out of energy within the next hundred years. The topic of refugee migration is relevant in our days, and the thriller oriented plot is interesting with its twists and turns. Having a non-binary character with Niko in a prominent role is to be expected with theses authors, and feels like a must these days.
But some elements annoyed me seriously – first of all the tension arc: Every chapter needed its own micro arc and used a cliffhanger for more tension. This doesn’t turn out well in the novel form that I read. A natural tension arc with relaxation in between wasn’t installed and the read was bumping heavily through the whole season.
Secondly, some chapters had continuity problems – the previous chapter left me in an unresolved state and I wasn’t picked up by the next chapter at that place but found a strange jump in time and space.
Also, the planetary settings don’t get enough visual impression, they feel abstract and and lack a sense of being there.
Lastly, that hacker kid Niko, a real Mary Sue / Gary Stu – hacking each and everything, starting from prison A.I.s up to planetary defense systems within minutes, conveniently surpassing every obstacle. Surely, people in a highly advanced civilization plastered with A.I.s will have passwords like Dog1234. The whole hacking explanations where just ridiculous bad.
After three chapters, I started skimming through the text, and the book didn’t draw me back to slow reading, which is always a bad sign.
So sorry to be the party pooper here, but this format didn’t meet my expectations and the quality of the authors. I rather read single stories or novels from them and won’t continue the next season.