Each of my teammates in the second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC2) have evaluated their initial allotment and have made their recommendations for the quarterfinals, which consist in our collective top eight of the 28 books in our team’s slush pile. Four of those eight quarterfinalists had been in my scouting allotment, so I personally had four new quarterfinalists to read. And the last on my list was the one whose 8.5 represented the highest score awarded by any of our judges in the scouting phase: The View From Infinity Beach by R.P.L. Johnson.
The View From Infinity Beach stars Kade, a teen whose mother had recently found a job aboard a space station dedicated mostly to the asteroid mining industry. But it doesn’t take long before Kade finds himself embroiled in a bigger conflict than he could have imagined, after an Earth-based military group executes a secret operation to bring the independent-minded station back in line.
That The View From Infinity Beach is a work of young adult sci-fi is made abundantly clear from the setup. An everyteen lead who never seems to fit in anywhere promptly befriends a young genius, a rich kid frenemy with an attitude problem, and the rich kid’s beautiful and much friendlier girlfriend. And together, they find themselves in a situation where they must take the action that the adults around them are unwilling or unable to perform. If you’ve read YA sci-fi, you’ve seen something like the setup before. And so the evaluation of the work all comes down to execution.
And in some areas, the execution is very good. The commitment to scientific detail is impressive—with the Coriolis Effect in particular showing up everywhere from space sports to tense action sequences—and the quality of the exposition keeps those details from overwhelming, with a smooth writing style that makes it easy to sink into the narrative despite the familiar setting and detailed science. And while there may be times where readers must suspend disbelief about just how many things the teen cast addresses before the adults—plus one plot element that neither the teens nor the adults seem to give sufficient attention—the plot is well-paced and a lot of fun. Fans of YA sci-fi who just want to sit back and enjoy the good fight against an oppressive force are bound to love this one.
Unfortunately, the exciting plot and scientific depth are supplemented by characterization that runs a bit thin after the lead. Kade’s journey is a fairly archetypical one, of a reluctant adolescent learning to take action and become a leader, but it’s well-executed and engaging throughout. But the rest of the cast are stereotypes. Neither the rich frenemy nor his girlfriend progress beyond the shallow characterizations they start with, and the antagonist is generic enough that I wondered at the decision to make her a point-of-view character. John, the genius friend, does get a bit more development, but his arrogance and sociopathic tendencies make him more frustrating than interesting.
As a reader who generally enjoys characterization more than plot, it makes it difficult to evaluate the book as a whole. While the lead gave me enough to emotionally invest in the story and to appreciate at least one character arc, the rest of the cast was a disappointment. On the other hand, that disappointment didn’t prevent me from really enjoying the plot. There were a couple immersion-breaking moments, but in general, the side characters pushed the story along. Perhaps they didn’t do anything more than push the story along, but most of them weren’t intended to. By and large, they did what was asked, even if I wish the story had asked more.
It all comes together for a tale that I enjoyed and can easily recommend to fans of the style—though not to all genre fans. It didn’t ascend to the top spot in my personal quarterfinals pecking order, but it’s a book that would fit right into the semifinals, if it manages to hang on to a position in my team’s top three.
Recommended if you like: YA sci-fi, plot and science over character.
Can I use it for Bingo? It’s hard mode for Self-Published and Features Revolution or Rebellion, and is also a Standalone by an Author Who Uses Initials that is Set in Space.
Overall rating: 14 of Tar Vol’s 20. Four stars on Goodreads.
SPSFC Score: My personal score is 7/10. The official team score will be decided in concert with my teammates.