BOOK REVIEW: Starfire A Red Peace by Spencer Ellsworth

Boy, aren’t Publishing knocking it out of the park of late. With titles such as Runtime, All Systems Red and Killing Gravity on their roster, they’re fast becoming the go-to for fast-paced speculative fiction. Modern scifi pulp, if you like. And now we’ve got A Red Peace, the first in their new Starfire series by Spencer Ellsworth, a debut novella that feels a hell of a lot more confident than most of what the so-called veterans of the genre are putting out. Ellsworth’s writing has smoothness to it, a conversational swagger that just lures you into the story. And what a story it is.

We follow two narrators. Jaqi, the loveable roguette, a half-breed working the fringes of known space who unwittingly finds herself caught up in a massive conspiracy involving the galaxy’s newest warlord, John Starfire, a couple of human kids and their mysterious and much sought-after artefact. Together with her unlikely ally, a musclebound brawler named Z, they hit the spaceways with Starfire’s vanguard, including the drug-addicted Araskar, second narrator of the story, and a whole bunch of nasty looking bug things in hot pursuit.

It’s wrong to draw parallels when you’ve got a writer building a world that’s very much his own, but I’m going to do it anyway. A Red Peace takes everything I love best about Star Wars, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy and Killjoys, as well as Corman’s Space Raiders and Battle Beyond the Stars, and just throws it all into a big bear pit to fight it out. The result is a tightly plotted novella totally devoid of filler, comprised solely of the best bits of its source material, and yet somehow Ellsworth still manages to breathe life into his characters, fleshing them out on the sly to the point where you really, really give a damn about them. And let me tell you, it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that reading a book.

The first part of a trilogy, A Red Peace kicks off a saga sure to dig its claws into space opera fans over the next couple of years or so and if there’s any justice at all, scoop a few awards in the process. Get on board now so you can say you were there before it went big.

More details on Starfire: A Red Peace right here