Embassy by S. Alex Martin: Review
Embassy is a science fiction/New Adult novel about a young man named Arman Lance attempting to find the girl he had a summer fling with years ago by joining the Embassy Program, shortly after the death of his father, Ambassador Lance.
Find the review to the sequel, Resonance, here.
Armin is a very pessimistic kid who is suffering from the recent loss of his father and yearns to travel the galaxy, if only to see his childhood sweetheart who moved away years ago. At first he's fairly unlikable, since he pushes away everyone close to him and seems to want nothing to do with other people even when they attempt to befriend him. This gives him a more self-centered vibe on the surface, but once the book gets more in-depth, it's obvious that Armin suffers from depression--in a very accurate and believable representation of the illness.
It would have been nice to see more of Armin's grieving process and coming to terms with his father's death, but he's so obsessed with finding the girl that he hasn't seen in years that it takes up most of his mind. The book is well constructed in that the reader doesn't really care about Ladia, the girl he wants; she seems unreal since the reader hasn't seen her, like a dream, and that's exactly what she is to Armin; a dream he attaches himself to in order to distract himself from his father's death and the pressures of possibly taking over his father's place as Ambassador.
Glacia is one of the most likable characters, despite Armin's annoyance with her. She's bold and loud and competitive. She's amazing at Hologis and excels in almost everything she does. Still, she tries to befriend Armin, because she's one of the only ones who seems to truly understand him.
Instead of humoring him about his unrealistic expectations about Ladia, she tries to remind him that he has a life to live outside of his childhood crush, if only he wakes up from his self-pitying to realize it.
Glacia and Armin are perfect foils for each other because while his head is in the clouds, often allowing him to forget that he has duties and responsibilities other than finding the girl of his dreams, Glacia is very grounded and determined to achieve the goals that are right in front of her.
Show Don't Tell
The biggest issue with this book lies in the typical mantra: "Show, don't tell." While some writers take this rule too seriously, others take it or leave it, this book shows that it is absolutely necessary at times.
At several points in the book, there are moments where it feels like the reader is reading an instruction manual or a travel guide instead of a fiction novel. While this may have been intentional, it doesn't exactly work when the readers want to connect to the vast world presented but can't because it's presented like a slide show in history class.
Maybe if these places were real, it wouldn't be that big of an issue, but since these are new worlds/landscapes, overall the book fails to pull the reader in, much less completely immerse them.
That being said, there are also many moments where this book hits the descriptions on the nose and makes the reader want to actually travel the universe Martin has created.
This novel is a great introduction for beginning-science fiction readers, since it mixes the marvels of the space travel with realistic, relatable human struggles.
One of the best parts of this book is the Hologis game. In a mix of dodgeball and laser tag, Martin creates a new competitive game that's captivating and intense. It would be awesome to play in real life. The competitors are suited up in suits and headgear that light up with the color of their team, separated into four colors; green, yellow, blue, and red. To get someone out, they have to tag each other with balls hidden around the arena. But there's a time limit for each area of the arena, and if the players aren't out of the section before the countdown ends, they're eliminated.
The first Hologis scene of the book is one of the first and most engaging parts of the book; the game is interesting and a lot of fun that will bring out the reader's competitive side and mixes it with scientific technology that any sci-fi lover would enjoy.
For a science fiction novel, this book is surprisingly a tear jerker.
While there is a very slow build, once the scene switches and the characters land in Belvin, the writing becomes even more artistic and tugs at the reader's emotions through dialogue, description of the beauty and ugliness of the planet, and for events that happen while there.
There are a lot of good lessons in this book such as not chasing your past, but not forgetting it, either. One of the best lessons in the book can be summed up in this paragraph:
"It's too late to change what I did. It's too late to apologize. It's too late to forget. But like Victoria said, sometimes you need a reminder that your past happened, a reminder that you can still forgive yourself for the way you were before you became what you are now." -S. Alex Martin, Embassy, page 332.
These are just some things that bothered me while reading.
There are a lot of details. In science fiction, that's great. But honestly, it becomes a little much in this novel. It's great that the worlds and science of it all is so researched, but there are added details that the reader really doesn't care about. For example, it's really not important which colors which section of his report are supposed to be highlighted unless it adds to the story. It didn't, so it, and other few facts, could be left out.
There's a point where Arman wants to learn an old language and his boss tells him that he'll have to ask around to see if anyone knows it because most languages are dead except for Standard. Latin is a dead language, but people nowadays can look it up on Google. This novel is supposed to be set in the far, far future, so it would be assumed that things would be easier, not harder.
There must have been some way for Arman to look up the languages on his own instead of going to the ancient door-to-door (or in this case, face-to-face) technique.
Overall this book was a very odd mix of science-fiction and New Adult that somehow worked into an emotional, teetering on romance novel simply set in space. The world is deeply enhanced and researched, taking the readers to worlds unknown. It may not be perfect, but it's still an enjoyable read.