Affinity trap Review and Opinion

Affinity trap Review and Opinion


The Affinity Trap
Martin Sketchley
Simon and Schuster paperback £10.99

review by Debbie Moon

In a future of colonisation and contact with alien races, Earth has become a major player, throwing its weight around to prevent interstellar conflicts that might be bad for trade. To stabilise a potential flashpoint, tyrannous General Myson plans to father a child by Lycern, a princess (of sorts) of the multi-gendered Seriatt. To fetch her, he inexplicably sends Alex Delgado, a security officer mocked and sidelined for his excessive integrity. But Delgado soon falls under Lycern's spell, and tries to rescue her from her fate. Myson soon recaptures her, but Delgado won't give up - even if that means taking on the full might of Myson's military empire...
   The cover blurb for Sketchley's debut novel claims it "blurs the boundaries between good and evil, male and female, human and non human." Unfortunately, that's pretty much true: his characters are flat and indistinguishable, and many seem to have wandered in from a poor quality fantasy trilogy. Forget subtlety: it's not enough for Myson to be greedy and ruthless, he has to be grossly fat and fond of prepubescent girls too. It's a good thing the passive Lycern is possessed of addictive pheromones that quite accidentally enslave human males, because we'd never believe Delgado's clumsily depicted passion for her otherwise.
   Of course, science fiction has long had a (sometimes unfair) reputation for neglecting real human emotions in favour of action and technology - and in fairness, if The Affinity Trap had been published 50 years ago, its characters would have fitted right in. Sketchley certainly keeps the action moving along, and though the plot is strictly of the 'kill the bad guy, save the girl' variety, there's rarely a page without some dramatic event. Perhaps he was simply unwise to choose a plot that demands to be driven by powerful emotions. Delgado disapproves of Myson's brutal rule, but has still served him without protest for years: his rebellion isn't political, but personal, and if we don't believe in and empathise with the (literally) star-crossed lovers, the whole narrative rings hollow.
   The Affinity Trap is perfectly acceptable action-driven light reading, and Sketchley's style has some promise. With a little more maturity and thought, he could be a writer to watch.

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