When someone described Tyche’s Flight to me as a cross between Firefly and Starship Troopers, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A Space Opera, yes, in the grand and campy styles of both story worlds, and of course, I expected familiar characters and story lines.
Tyche’s Flight delivered a little of both in a fresh and entertaining experience.
The Tyche is a privately owned cargo ship chartered by the Republic Navy to carry a transmitter across the galaxy to the Absalom system, ostensibly to repair the Guild Bridge, a fixed wormhole reminiscent of the gateways in Stargate SG1.
It’s crewed by the typical round of misfit characters: Nate, the captain, a former soldier on the losing side of a large-scale war; El, the pilot, whose gift flying ships is unsurpassed; Hope, a young and often hopelessly naive engineer who can fix any problem, given enough time; and Kohl, a brute of a man with a tendency to shoot first and never ask questions. Throw Grace, a telepath on the run, into the mix and the opening chapters feel very much like a remake of Firefly.
Parry’s gift is in taking a time-worn plot and characters, and refurbishing them into an engaging read. Unlike many Space Operas, the technological details in Tyche’s Flight are plausible, if not always possible, and the writing usually flows seamlessly so that it fades into the background, highlighting the ongoing turmoil.
The Tyche‘s crew experiences an escalating series of problems beginning almost immediately after Nate, with Grace’s help, negotiates a contract for the transportation of said transmitter. One by one, each member of the crew steps in to save the day, including Grace, who must earn her place on the crew, even as she uses them for her own purposes.
All roads lead to the Absalom system. Along the way, the crew discovers a derelict ship, all hands brain dead, carrying the exact same make and model of transmitter the Tyche was commissioned to carry. The situation devolves once they reach Absalom Delta, the colonized world that was cut off by the transmitter malfunction, and encounter another derelict ship, this one a Republic Navy warship with a missing crew. The crew is found planet-side soon enough, along with a body snatching alien species (called, appropriately enough, “bugs”) and a science station that shouldn’t exist, both of which throw the crew into increasingly dangerous situations.
It’s how the crew reacts that makes the story work. Each crew member is given more than one opportunity to excise another member, with the singular exception of Hope, whose age, personality, and situation cushion her from such machinations. Kohl, who is always up for a fight, is openly antagonistic to everyone, particularly Hope, whose background includes criminal activity that’s never fully explained, and Grace. At one point El, the Helm, brings out an old school, pared down shotgun to hunt down a possible threat on the Tyche, including her fellow crewmates. Nate often must decide between saving individual crew members and the greater good, including saving his own skin, and Grace, as the story’s rogue element, has numerous chances to either throw the Tyche‘s crew to the wolves or kill them, or both.
Instead, the crew eventually pulls together and becomes what every crew should be: a family. How they get there is entertaining as hell and well worth the read.
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