Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Review: 'Exile' by Sally Ann Melia

British author Sally Ann Melia (the pen name for Sally Dickson) was born in Wallasey, England and moved to the South of France when she was eleven. She spent her teenage years living in the cosmopolitan city-state of Monaco and became immersed in its many languages and cultures. An English girl in a French school, for three hours each week she would sit at the back of the class as her colleagues learnt English. To pass the time, she wrote stories. She labels herself as `a science fiction writer, a science fiction author and a science fiction storyteller - three categories that seem inextricable related as labels but when reading her work the difference of `making up things' and creating true science fiction fantasies the difference among the three is obvious - she thinks, talks, breathes and puts on paper splendid tales for young adults that put an entirely different spin on science fiction. She lives in Farnham, Surrey with her husband and tow children and associated pets. According to her bio she has a life long obsession with science fiction - films, books, television series etc - and that personal preference background serves her well in creating truly fine thoughts and ideas as demonstrated in this her third published novel - EXILE, the continuation of the GUY ERMA AND THE SON OF EMPIRE SERIES.

If an author in Sci-Fi can re-capture attention in book two of a series in the continuation of the early chapters that serves as a magnet to continue, then what follows is bound to be a success. That is precisely what Melia accomplishes in what is now Chapter 26: `In the cap of the Dome, a disk jet rose up amidst the twisted broken fighting cage and fallen cyborgs. All around small groups of Dome Elite paused from where they were helping their injured colleagues and crouched ready, blades in hands, to watch. The disk was not bearing another snake droid but a single Dome Elite soldier. A Zaracan Shape-shifter Karl Valvanchi could appear as he wished, he appeared to be a member of the Dome Elite as he scanned the cap of the Dome. He realised at once that Prince Teodor was gone. After a few minutes more he realised that his plan had worked. Zak's clever programming of the snake had succeeded. None of the Dome Elite had been injured, but all the Borgs were dead. What had happened to the Prince? Karl scanned for DNA traces, and a trail of blood droplets flashed bright orange in front of his eyes. He quickly followed their footsteps to the great bath. There he paused a moment, looking at the blades greaves and calf-protection abandoned at the side of the iron structure, in puddles of water. Glancing over his shoulder, he heard Chart Segat giving loud instructions, rallying the Dome Elite. Karl paused a moment, picked up the abandoned blades equipment and hid it his pack.'

Condense the pack of action in this installment, the author offers: `Someone somewhere had decided Sas Darona plague could be used as a weapon."They called them poison pills, and in some cases the glass eco-systems containing six venomous flies were displayed as part of contemporary interior decor. Strange!" Karl Valvanchi mused, "When you consider the insects are practically unstoppable and breed exponentially into great clouds of death. These plague weapons went beyond deadly. They were planet-killers." 13-year-old Teodor has found a way to escape from kidnap, how long before he is safely home? 13-year-old Guy Erma has run away from everything he has even known and no longer knows what the future holds. Their adventure has forged an unexpected friendship, but do they really trust each other? Dare they share their darkest, deepest secrets?? The paths of Teodor Freyne and Guy Erma have now become one, their fate becomes that of the Empire they were born to when they discover a hidden terror.'

Yes, the story abounds in poisons and antidotes and terrifying constructs that will most assuredly appeal to the Young Adult reader (the author graciously provides an Appendix with names and places defined), but the pleasure is the discovery of a fresh young writer who can fearlessly provide an impossible adventure and create the hunger for more. Sally Ann Melia continues to do very well with this series, thank you! Grady Harp, June 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.