Book Preview: “Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event”
There’s something about receiving a preview copy of a scifi book from an @jpl.nasa.gov email address that lends it a sort of instant credibility. While the author might not carry the same scientific gravity as von Braun, or the writing talents of Asimov, the end product is proof enough that a dash of each talent is more than sufficient to produce a good novel.
I was initially turned onto Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event by the novel’s website, where the first 10 chapters can be read entirely free. In fact, Douglas, the author, plans to release the entire book for free eventually. But ultimately, the words “free” and “science fiction” alone aren’t what held my attention. Only one chapter into the novel and it became obvious that I had stumbled on a real gem: a captivating, well-polished novel from a first time author.
As its slightly pulpy title suggests, Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event tells the story of the crew of the Tesla Prime, an interplanetary spaceship, and their discovery of and reaction to the Regulus Event. Without surrendering too much of the novel’s plot, the story is set in the near future, after humanity discovers strong evidence of life in a planet orbiting far-flung Tau Ceti. Summoning the collective resources of Earth, the International Space Collective constructs a massively expensive ship*, capable of transporting seven astronauts to Tau Ceti and back at relativistic speeds. Following the success of their mission and returning home, the astronauts are confronted with a grim reality: Earth is gone – not blown up, not cloaked, not shielded from their return, just gone – and floating in their planet’s place is a massive metal ring. The novel largely spends its time following the crew as they search for clues to Earth’s fate, and try to somehow recover it.
There’s no doubt about it, the book feels a lot like a novelization of a Star Trek episode. It throws pulpy scifi in with some theoretical science, and glues it all together with the small crew interpersonal dynamic and fast pacing. While this certainly isn’t a timeless masterpiece of science fiction, it’s a fun and easy read that leaves you hoping for more (Douglas hints at a “Tesla Prime and the Centauri Conflict” in the future). If there’s anything I can fault it on, it’s the lack of polish in some of the later, still-unpublished chapters. The same polish that came with the open editing of the first ten chapters begins to falter as the book progresses, and towards the end it goes from fast-paced to a full-on, reckless sprint. But again, this is just a preview of a work in progress; assuming that the last few chapters can receive the same polish over time as the first few already have, I could easily see Tesla Prime and the Regulus Event as being only the first in a line of Tesla Prime books.
Honestly, the best review I can give it is this: Despite working 12 hour days and being busy renovating a new house, I was so engrossed with the story that I found time to finish it in three sittings. It’s entertaining, well-written, and free. Seriously, what have you got to lose? Check it out here.
* Sadly (for our space program), in a book with space aliens and warp drives, the notion that governments would spend $500 billion on a decades-long space exploration mission is what probably takes the greatest suspension of disbelief to imagine.