It’s been so long since I’ve read any SF, I’ve almost forgotten how to read it. Rift Breaker, by award-winning indigenous author Tristan Michael Savage, is a high action space adventure that will appeal to fans of Doctor Who and similar types of fantasy. The book won the 2013 Black&Write award for YA writing, but I think that adolescent boys of any age will like it. I’m not so sure about girls…
The main characters are Milton Lance, a human, and his simian mate Tazman. Although Tazman is unreliable and his party-animal ways often get the pair into trouble, there is never any doubt that they are the Good Guys. Inexperienced, sometimes naive and often impulsive, these two are recognisable as the antithesis of Evil because they show compassion for the suffering of others. With their sidekick Luyulla, it’s not so clear where her loyalties lie…
This is also true of the other significant characters. Fleet Commander Viceon Raegar works for the Tranquillian Composite, which is a ‘fusion of worlds dedicated to preserve cohabitation’. Sent to discover how the space colony Orisurrection was annihilated, he sees Luyulla’s spacecraft and assuming that the trio are responsible, circulates a Wanted notice throughout space.
From here on the trio have all kinds of trouble. Clearly there are Bad Guys, but all kinds of confusion keeps the reader guessing about who’s double-crossing whom. Milton finds himself the object of interest from both sides because the Good Guys think he’s on the wrong side and the Bad Guys somehow know that he has acquired a powerful gift that facilitates their Evil Quest.
There are so many twists and turns in the plot that I could not quite keep track, but in SF I think that hardly matters. It’s a Battle between Good and Evil, framed by a quest. The hero is double-crossed by someone, and there is a sexy female of considerable power (though she behaves in a rather incompetent way with her weaponry). In this respect it’s a rather ‘male’ book: the male characters dominate, the female has moments of being ruled by heart not head, and problems are all solved by fighting.
On the other hand, while the Bad Guys are motivated by lust for power, Milton saves himself with thoughts of home, family and friends. While there is the usual impressive range of weaponry that’s familiar from Doctor Who, the really dastardly stuff is created by evil scientists with a medical bent. Milton ends up with his mind under control through a Xoeloid implant in his brain, but the message seems to be that human love will prevail if people remain strong.
Milton is in some ways a symbol of Aboriginal resilience and reconciliation. He is a lone human in a world of other creatures, and he was raised by adoptive parents. He enjoys new experiences and he puts up with Tazman’s crazy behaviour because he craves adventure – but his heart belongs to his quiet home in an isolated rural environment. His sense of justice is outraged by colonisers who destroy space colonies for their own purposes, and he is determined to survive in order to resist their domination because he doesn’t share their values.
At 350-odd pages it looks like a long book but the font is well-spaced and it’s a quick and easy read. For fans of high action space adventure, it has plenty of techno-babble, weird creatures and snappy dialogue. I’m confident that boys will like it, and I’ll be interested to see if teenage girls like it too.
Update: Tristan Savage has won the Kris Hembury encouragement award at the recent Aurealis Awards for science fiction…Congratulations!
PS I left this book behind at my parents’ place, my mother (who’s in her late 80s) absolutely loves it!
Author: Tristan Michael Savage
Title: Rift Breaker
Publisher: Magabala Books 2014
Source: review copy courtesy of Magabala Books.