Review of Noble Ark, by Colette Black

Noble ArkI downloaded a copy of Colette Black‘s book, Noble Ark, from the Amazon free list. At the time of posting, it was still free.

Description from Goodreads:
Mwalgi pirates, parasitic aliens who consume human spinal fluid, are boarding the Noble Ark. When Larkin Trovgar, a half-human member of the attacking alien ship, turns on his own people, saving Aline Taylor’s life, she feels duty-bound to watch over the impossible monstrosity. Despite his easy-going charms and virile physique, she’s determined to see him as she would any Mwalgi—nothing better than an animal. As Larkin’s presence brings out the best and worst in the human crew, and the Noble Ark is harassed by more Mwalgi ships, will Aline look past Larkin’s alien heritage to find love, or will mistrust cost her everything?

I think I probably enjoyed this more than it deserved, because when I started mentally tallying all the points I wanted to make in this review the criticisms outnumbered the compliments. But I still enjoyed it. Sometimes that just happens with a book. In such cases, I tend to go with my emotional response, even if not all together logical. So, the final takeaway is that I had fun reading Noble Ark.

The simple fact is that a lot of this plot is…*shakes head*…well, I couldn’t believe half of it. The amount of freedom of movement Larkin, an enemy hostage, is given is unprecedented.

But before I even get to that though, there is the fact that almost everyone on board the ship hates the Mwalgi, except for a few convenient people in Aline’s life who suddenly and inexplicably turn out to be Mwalgi sympathisers. Most notable of these are the family of her best friend and her therapist. Isn’t that convenient to the plot? The people most likely to bring her around to not hating Larkin are the only ones who don’t hate his kind to start with.

The necessity of putting Larkin in Aline’s room, instead of the brig is utterly ridiculous. Even if your father is the captain, especially if your father is the captain, there’s no way he’s risking your life like that just be cause you ask. NO WAY! There had yet to be any indication to anyone but Aline that he was anything but the blood-thirty monster all other Mwalgi are seen as.

Then he’s allowed to walk around with her mostly because, and I shit you not, her psychiatrist tells her to spent more time getting to know him. Sure, “Bring your enemy, alien hostage to your therapy sessions, where we’ll talk about all your personal trauma in front of him.” seems like a perfectly normal AND BELIEVABLE thing for a therapist to insist on. At the very least, that has to be a HIPPA violation.

What’s more, dehumanising the enemy during war times is the norm, not something her counsellor would be having kittens over in the first place. So, why does he want her to get to know him and see him as more human? No one, NO ONE, else is concerned with seeing the enemy as human. (For that matter no other Mwalgi in the book are presented as human, they’re all shown to be the evil monsters people believe them to be.)

Plus, when the few important characters who don’t see them as monstrous all give Aline the  ‘but we’re all human, really, it’s just our governments that are at war’ it felt forced and was unpleasantly sappy. It was the most juvenile part of the book and despite the books’ general lack of believability, one of the few time I found myself truly disappointed by it.

Another one was the games. I found it unlikely that Larkin would have been allowed to participate, convenient archaic rule or not and I find it even more unlikely that other participants would play with him. Realistically, most should have been traumatised by the sight of him.  Plus, they just lasted for flippin’ ever! I thought they might never end, detailing every single stage and points scored as the section did.

I also found the onboard baddie, David, shallow, uni-dimensional and too insanely focused to be as smart as he was said to be. This is very much a YA sci-fi romance. A lot, A LOT, more time is spent on board with Larkin, Aline and David that with enemy engagements. So, for most of the book this angsty teenage attempt at romance is the main focus.

Given that so much attention was paid to the onboard drama, a lot less attention was paid to the galaxy and general world-building. I was often confused on what the treaties and conventions that were obviously being ignored were meant to actually establish, who/what species were, how many types, was there a multi-world alliance of some sort, etc. This was a very real weakness.

Now, I did really appreciate that the author allowed bad things to happen. I don’t mean I like bad things, but in circumstances in which there can be no happy ending, the reader needs to know tragedy can strike. But many authors aren’t willing to go there and I’m glad Black did.

The book is well written and I didn’t notice any glaring editorial errors. Plus, like I said at the beginning, I really enjoyed the book. Larkin is a wonderful hero and, with exception of her extreme and annoying naivety concerning David, Aline was a strong fun heroine. There were some interesting tech and species described as well.  So, though I had a lot of complaints, I’d still recommend readers pick it up. You kinda gotta give up on reasonable believability and just go with the flow, but if you can do it, it makes for a pleasant read.

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