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Black Star Renegades

Review

Black Star Renegades

With BLACK STAR RENEGADES, author and comic book writer Michael Moreci has tapped into something that feels classically sci-fi but wholly new and refreshing. BLACK STAR RENEGADES hits on a place in our hearts reserved for early childhood recollections of the original Star Wars films and the first time we witnessed a Skywalker losing a hand. This riveting book carries all the clever quips, character melodrama and ship-to-ship combat we could ask for in a Grade-A space opera while also taking common and oftentimes overused tropes and kicking them over.

BLACK STAR RENEGADES opens on the classic set-up of two young brothers on the run from a street gang and their subsequent rescue by their soon-to-be mentor. The scene is perfect in how old-hat and familiar it is down to the last moment. The two young heroes are cornered and an old martial artist appears (a la Mr. Miyagi or Obi-Wan Kenobi) with his kick-butt lightning-staff, quickly dispatching the gang. Their rescuer then claims that they have to follow him to adventure and glory.

"This riveting book carries all the clever quips, character melodrama and ship-to-ship combat we could ask for in a Grade-A space opera while also taking common and oftentimes overused tropes and kicking them over."

The story quickly picks up 10 years later with the two brothers, Cade and Tristan --- now trained as Rai-peacekeepers --- questing across an exotic wilderness on the hunt for the ultimate weapon destined to destroy all evil. The entire way up the monolithic pyramid that houses the weapon, they are convinced that Tristan, the older and more responsible of the two brothers, will be the new Paragon who will wield ultimate power and bring peace to the universe. The boys have been raised on time-honored prophecies that speak of the Paragons who fought for peace long ago until they were no longer needed, and a time when another would be called to do the same. Naturally, all signs have been pointing to Tristan. That is, until he is impaled by an assassin of the Praxis Empire only moments after the ultimate weapon is drawn. Cade takes up arms at the cost of his arm, and sets out on a harrowing journey across the universe. With no Paragon to lead the resistance against the Praxis Empire and Ga Halle, the evil villain at the head of the hegemony, the best they can do is Cade. In other words, the universe is doomed.

As far as openings go, this is by far one of the best introductions to a science fiction series I’ve ever read. Just the opening I’ve summarized above is without a doubt the best hook to a novel I will read this year. With hardly a second thought, Moreci gives us a “Chosen One” to look at and admire and kills him, handing the legendary weapon to his hapless brother. Michael Moreci just does the darn thing! Moreci plays with our expectations like it is the easiest thing to do. He doesn’t shy away from the allusions and comparisons to Star Wars but leans into them and times out his reveals and bombshell twists like a watchmaker.

For instance, he wouldn’t necessarily give us a plot twist when a well-versed Star Wars nerd expects one (being one himself, he is acquainted with this timing) and instead might hang back just a few moments or completely surprise the reader at random. In doing this, he lets readers hang on that moment until the anticipation stacks and is amplified. This could just be called good timing or storytelling if not for the structures in place that Moreci is playing with. He’s taken the classical expectations and pacing and slowed it down or sped it up accordingly. He remixed Star Wars, and it really, truly works.

Even BLACK STAR RENEGADES’s villain, the Ga Halle leading the Praxis Empire, carries the mystery and menace of Darth Vader or the Horned King in THE BLACK CAULDRON with a flavor all her own. A self-proclaimed hegemon holding sway over the universe rarely carries the fearsome weight like the Ga Halle does for how often you see her. In seeing her so often, you learn a lot about her motivations, but just when you think you know what you’re dealing with, the Ga Halle drops a bombshell about the history that came before Cade and Tristan’s quest to retrieve the would-be-instrument of the Ga Halle’s undoing. Evil rarely comes packaged so completely in a villain like the Ga Halle does.

Our story isn’t complete without the young hero, though. Cade Sura is, without a doubt, the best hero to doubt (say that three times fast). He starts the story disbelieving that he is in any shape useful to even help carry his brother’s gear around, let alone lead a crack team of space heroes against the greatest evil in the universe. Like Luke Skywalker, the natural comparison to our boy Cade, he is a ball of hope, naiveté and starlight. Cade is all cynicism and self-doubt, with deep-seated self-esteem issues. Cade is the best role model, particularly for younger readers, because he is real and sensible. Cade is scared out of his mind and he admits often that he wished Tristan would have just lived and handled all the Paragon universe-saving nonsense. I love Cade because he could very well just as easily NOT save the universe --- but then again, that would cost us an excellent story.

With a motley crew made up of Cade, a young flying ace named Kira, Cade’s tech genius best friend and an obsolete assassin droid with a bone to pick, the quest to stop Praxis from conquering the whole of the universe is only just starting. Their journey takes the four across the stars looking for aide in their fight and in their search for the truth about a new Paragon. Or was it an old Paragon? Questions get answered and new questions get asked before this opening act wraps up, and readers are in for a wild ride across black market worlds and battleship graveyards that scar jungle planets as Cade learns to step up and be everything nobody thinks he can be. Including himself.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on February 14, 2018

Black Star Renegades
by Michael Moreci

  • Publication Date: January 2, 2018
  • Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250117844
  • ISBN-13: 9781250117847