- Diaspora Phoenix: A Novel of the New Era
- By Martin J. Dougherty
A downloadable .PDF E-Book
Published by: Quick Link Interactive
Available from: http://www.travellerrpg.com
Diaspora Phoenix is the first in what will hopefully be a series of novels set at the beginning of the New Era time period in the Traveller universe, written by Martin J. Dougherty, the co-author of the Traveller D20 System's Travellers Handbook.
The novel itself is a 140 page downloadable .pdf file available from the TravellerRPG website (http://www.travellerrpg.com). Being a .pdf file it really goes without saying that a printer is a must if you wish to read it away from your personal computer. Having said that the file is small and easily transferable from your desktop to laptop computer, providing you own one. Though it would be preferable to see future installments in other formats such as Microsoft Reader for those of us with hand held PCs.
The layout of the novel itself is crisp and concise, which makes for easy reading from either monitor or hard copy. The novel is devoid of illustration, which helps to keep the file size down, bar for the cover illustration – a colour image of a reflection nebula in Orion captured by the Hubble telescope.
Set in the years 1202-3 of the New Era, the novel follows the fortunes of an eclectic band of adventurers as they begin their journey along the road from being escapees of an Imperial Raymore assault on the Lerun Federation world of Darryl to becoming founders of the Diaspora Phoenix.
The Diaspora Phoenix being a collective of worlds, free traders and other individuals within the Diaspora sector intent on rebuilding civilisation and regaining the stars for the survivors of the collapse which destroyed the Third Imperium and decimated Humaniti and other sentient races leaving them teetering on the edge of an abyss both cultural and technological.
The novel begins with a brief introduction explaining the collapse of the Third Imperium, its causes and more importantly its effects.
This enables the reader to successfully understand the background of the novel and the universe in which it is set in a manner that does not assume prior knowledge of the setting. An immense bonus if you are not already familiar with the New Era setting or with the Traveller universe as a whole.
In fact Diaspora Phoenix covers all the big issues and protagonists of the New Era setting. From Virus and vampire ships, Technologically Elevated Dictators (or TEDs), relic machinery, piracy and free traders to the Guild, the Reformation Coalition and Humaniti's struggle to regain the stars. This makes it not only a good read of those already familiar with Traveller but also a perfect "flavour" text for GM’s to give to new players to introduce them to the New Era and Traveller as a whole.
The main characters themselves are a disparate but likeable bunch not too dissimilar from the average group of Player Characters in a New Era campaign.
They include Jon Issacs, a Merchant Service Petty Officer strong in both body and mind thrust into the position of leader due to the manner of the manner of the groups escape from the occupying Raymore forces on Darryl. Alex Douvoski, Marksman and the groups point man and scout. Rachel Stanton, a civil engineer and collapse survivor. Amanda Jane Reissman, combat aircraft pilot whose actions to preserve her own life early in the story speak volumes of her opinions of the value of others lives and Iain Vaaskaavi, Stanton's fellow engineer.
In fact as the story unfolded I began to get the feeling that perhaps it was from Martin's own Traveller campaign (assuming he runs one) and gaming experiences that the characters and plot of this novel came, it certainly feels as such. In fact an enterprising GM could mine innumerable encounters and NPCs for their own campaigns from the novel if the idea was to occur to them.
The fast paced and exciting beginning to the novel never really lets up. Martin's writing style easy to read, flowing from page to page with just enough detail to realise the situation at hand without "bogging down" the narrative with overlong descriptive passages. The story proceeds logically from one situation to another while the spoken narrative between characters also flows well and you begin to get not only a fair sense of the Characters themselves but also of their needs, desires and motivations in the formation of the Phoenix collective. Though I would have preferred to see some further exploration of the characters especially Douvoski and Reissman, who in my opinion suffered some neglect in the face of stronger characters such as Issacs and Stanton. Perhaps this will be rectified in later books.
The novel is very much "action" orientated and contains numerous situations including daring escapes, smash and grab operations, starship combat, reconnaissance and salvage missions and small-scale planetary assaults. All of which successfully recreate the chaos and unpredictability of combat and exploration.
While a large proportion of the novel concentrates on action it also has its fair share of intrigue, personal sacrifice, deception and betrayal. Nothing and no one is what it, or they first appear to be and while some are more than willing to sacrifice all in the name of rebuilding Humaniti's place in the universe, others are less so. This has effect giving the reader an insight into the political and personal manoeuvrings of individuals and organisations in the rebuilding of civilisation in the stars as well as providing plenty of avenues for further expansion in future novels.
Humour also plays a part in the novel with Issacs and Douvoski providing some the best moments of comic relief. In fact rather than jarring with the nature of the story, the humour complements it, making the characters more human in especially in the face of the dangerous situations that confront them. Though generally the mood of the novel darkens as the stakes become more serious as the story progresses towards it climax.
In conclusion Diaspora Phoenix is an enjoyable read. It is full of dangerous situations, engaging characters and a good sense of the issues present within the New Era setting. All in all recommended reading for all Traveller and New Era devotees alike.