Title: The Year Before the End
Author: Vidar Hokstad
Published by: Hokstad Publishing
Publication date: 19th Nov 2020
Forty years ago humanity found out we were not alone. The Centauri offered us the galaxy.With one year to go before the gate is ready, Captain Zara Ortega learns of a conspiracy between Mars separatists and the Centauri to split the solar system between them. The crew of the ship Black Rain goes on a daring raid from one of the most well-guarded stations in the system to uncover the truth, but an attack on their ship raises more questions. A meeting with their contact near Mars goes badly wrong and leads them into a chase through the asteroid belt in a desperate bid for survival.Deceit and betrayal have put not just their lives on the line, but the future of humanity.
I was approached by Henry Roi PR to read and review The Year Before the End. Many thanks for reaching out to me and for this request. I hope that you find my review to your satisfaction.
After reading the first chapter of The Year Before the End, I had some reservations about the book. I thought I was going to be in for a technical overload that I wouldn’t get along with. The level of detail the first few chapters go into about seemingly insignificant things; how to build domes on Mars, and how gravity works in space is jarring to have in such an early section of the book and while world building is important I felt so utterly overwhelmed by the minute details that I almost didn’t give this book a chance to really get going.
However, after this rather large bump in the road, the characters are introduced and everything picks up. The story follows Captain Zara Ortega, Zo, and her crew as they uncover a top-secret conspiracy between Mars and recently discovered Centauri technology. Along the way is a thrill ride of space-faring, betrayal, adventure and action.
The Year before the End is certainly a book of two halves. During the first, there is a lot of pauses in the plot to make way for World-Building and information dumps. These are somewhat jarring and interrupt the flow of the story at times and build up to be frustrating. While they are important to bring a technical understanding that the plot builds upon they hinder the flow of the story. The second section of the book, when this world-building has been completed, is where the fun really happens. It’s filled with adventure, strong characterisations, fantastic, well-thought out plot twists and fast-paced action.
The host of characters within The Year before the End are what really make the book shine. They are a mixed bunch of characters that each bring their own favour. They reminded me fondly of a TTRPG of characters, each had their own specialities that they brought to the crew, but along with them they had their own personalities that made them stand out from one another. I felt myself leaning more towards Captain Zo and the manner in which she thought and conducted herself. She is a fantastic, level-headed, lead character that keeps her crew grounded. The backstory of Captain Ortega and her rise to the rose adds an extra depth to an already rich character. I found particular interest in crew-member Clarice who sets herself apart from the rest of the crew by means of her augmetic and technical abilities. Also in the crew are characters such as Mons, Vincent and Jonas. Each adding their own unique elements to a very successful cast. I am looking forward to reading more about these characters and how they will grow from this point onwards. Especially seeing the emerging romantic relationships and how they will improve and evolve from here on.
The plot of The Year before the End is varied; primarily a science-fiction novel, this book also spans across action/adventure and political intrigue. Once the world-building aspect of the story is mostly finished with, the other elements of the story come to play and build upon what has been over-explained. The plot crosses these genres well and, along with the gritty setting of the universe, we’re given a sublime, varied story. As well as having clear characters to root for in Captain Ortega and her crew, there’s a clear nemesis throughout the story and I dare-say that this isn’t the last we will be seeing of them. There is a lot of promise in The Year before the End that looks like it’s going to only get better as the series spans through its six planned books.
There’s enough mystery to keep the pages turning, especially with the elements of Conspiracy Theory aspect to the book. There is a tension throughout The Year before the End that lends itself well alongside the sprawling action scenes. The off-set of characters ideas and approaches to their predicaments feed back into the plot; their actions have a direct impact on what happens around them and what they face further down the line. There is an impact from the political ramifications of their actions; and considering this is the debut novel from the author and the first in the series, I am eager to read more of this series as and when it is released, as long as the technicalities are trimmed down.
Once over the initial, overly technical, difficulties of the novel, The Year before the End is a fantastic, characterful read. An absolutely brilliant plot with a handful of unique characters that feel realistic and impactful in the world around them.