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Twenty young people wake aboard the spaceship Redemption with no memory how they got there.
Asher Maddox went to sleep a college dropout with clinical depression and anxiety. He wakes one hundred sixty years in the future to assume the role as captain aboard a spaceship he knows nothing about, with a crew as in the dark as he is.
Yanked from their everyday lives, the crew learns that Earth has been ravaged by the Spades virus – a deadly disease planted by aliens. They are tasked with obtaining the vaccine that will save humanity, while forced to hide from an unidentified, but highly advanced enemy.
Half a galaxy away from Earth, the crew sets out to complete the quest against impossible odds. As the enemy draws closer, they learn to run the ship despite their own flaws and rivalries. But they have another enemy . . . time. And it’s running out.
A moving, hopeful tale of personal struggle and unlikely heroism masquerading as an adrenaline-fueled sci-fi action thriller of a novel.
Like the characters onboard the Redemption, we as readers are thrown into the middle of a crisis on page one; like those characters, we have absolutely NO IDEA what’s going on. Thus begin the dual journeys of the reader and the Redemption crew—journeys that travel through terror, shock, anger, despondency and renewed hope. Several times.
In the early pages of the book, I wasn’t sure that Ash Maddox, a young man thrust into the role of captain of a spaceship under the worst possible circumstances, was going to be able to successfully carry the mantle of leadership or of primary protagonist. In fairness, Ash wasn’t sure, either. But he surprised us both. As much as Redemption is a pulse-pounding action tale of the race to retrieve a cure for an alien virus and save Earth from a deadly epidemic, it’s a thoughtful, inspiring tale of a group of people fighting through adversity, fear and their own personal demons—not to mention mysterious enemies frequently shooting at them—to rise above their circumstances, come together and become, yes, heroes.
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple or straightforward; in good stories it never is. But the Ash we leave at the end of the book is not the same man we met on page one. Other characters evolve as well, but it’s Ash’s journey that truly matters here. After all, he is the captain.
“Redemption is not only adrenaline-filled, gripping, scene-fiction. It is also the story of a young man’s heroic journey toward becoming fully human – the story of the one true journey we all need to make.”
Redemption takes a character-driven story of psychology and overcoming adversity and wraps it up neatly in an homage to Star Trek with notes of corporate dystopia and environmental catastrophe.
Stories with elements of time travel are often tricky, with questions of why those who shifted time went to a particular place or didn’t do something different to ensure victory. Often, when I read stories that have an element of time travel to them, I spend more time thinking “why didn’t they do X” than enjoying the story. E.g. characters sent through time to the instant a bad guy is doing something, and wonder—why didn’t they go back farther and stop the bad guy before he became a threat.
However, in Redemption, Schlossberg manages to involve time travel in a way that doesn’t create a distracting paradox. It’s a rare treat to read a book that plays with time and doesn’t keep me trying to force myself to accept what’s happening.
The other shining aspect of this book is the portrayal of the characters’ (mostly Ash’s) struggle with mental illness. He is a troubled young man, initially a prisoner of his personal demons. The impact of depression, anxiety, PTSD and the like on a person’s life can be devastating. It is a true-to-life and poignant portrayal of one man’s battle against his own mind. The character’s evolution over the course of the story is natural, meaningful, and powerful.
– Matthew Cox, author of The Summer The World Ended
The first couple of chapters or so seem completely chaotic. Like the protagonists, you are literally thrust into a futuristic setting with no clue of what is happening. I have to admit, I was a bit worried that the premise would end up becoming Schlossberg’s interpretation of the book, “Lord of the Flies;” however, these fears were assuaged as the group of teens seemed to recognize Ash’s innate leadership abilities.
The plot felt like a “Star Trek: Next Generation” episode, which is a compliment as I enjoyed the show’s social commentary, character development, its disregard for conventional thinking, and its overall disdainful attitude towards discriminatory assumptions. I liked how Schlossberg portrayed the characters because they each had realistic strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities but they worked as a team and grew as individuals.
I particularly appreciated how Ash was portrayed. Ash had innate leadership skills and ended up being the captain of the crew; he had personality flaws, he made mistakes, he owned those mistakes, and he suffered from depression and panic attacks. As someone who is dealing with PTSD, I thought Schlossberg’s descriptions of panic attacks and depression were thoughtful, accurate, and sensitive. I also appreciated the fact that Ash was the captain; I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve been overlooked for a leadership position because I have PTSD and was considered too “emotionally fragile” for the job. The issues that Ash dealt with as a leader and the methods he used to cope demonstrate how with a little support and outside-the-box-thinking, Ash was able to fulfill his duties admirably.
The ship’s equipment intrigued me as it was a combination of older and future tech. The tech for all of the stations was the same, but the UI and appearance of the stations were customized for the intended user while taking into account which time period the user originated from. As someone who had access to some of the first computers and game consoles, I found this element fascinating.
The premise also caught my attention as it was equal parts cautionary and hopeful. There was some discussion of climate change, pollution, companies merging to become mega-corporations that achieve world domination, discrimination, and the potential hazards of acquiring resources from other planets. However, there is a glimmer of hope; someone has sent a group of young adults forward (or back) in time to save Earth from its inevitable destruction, young adults who have different perspectives and different histories working together to achieve one goal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all starlight and happy endings. Mistakes, misunderstandings, and tragedies occur; however, they still manage to work together and move forward towards a single goal.
Folks, this is classic science fiction at its best! The author’s ability to combine these elements with accurate character portrayal and a realistic-for-science-fiction setting makes it stand out from the crowd. If Schlossberg and the “Spades Trilogy” aren’t on your list of books and authors to watch, they should be.