Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell

Nathan Lowell, © 2007, Ridan Publishing, May, 2010, trade paper – 1st of Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series – science fiction – cover art by Michael J. Sullivan

click to enlarge

I first read a review of this on one of the many blogs I visit, and can’t now find which one. Regardless, the book was available in several formats: print, Kindle, podcast, and naturally I choose print being an old-fashioned ink-and-paper book kinda guy. What a find!

from the Ridan Publishing website’s profile:

“Nathan Lowell has been a writer for more than forty years, and first entered the literary world by podcasting his novels. His science fiction series, The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper grew from his long time fascination with space opera and his own experiences shipboard in the United States Coast Guard. Unlike most works which focus on a larger-than-life hero […] Nathan centers on the people behind the scenes–ordinary men and women trying to make a living in the depths of space. In his novels, there are no bug-eyed monsters, or galactic space battles, instead he paints a richly vivid and realistic world where the “hero” uses hard work and his own innate talents to improve his station and the lives of those of his community.”

World building, while mostly in the background, is persuasive. In defining “world building” I include the trading ship SC Lois McKendrick since a large part of the book takes place there or on orbital stations around planetary stops. But it’s not descriptions of the ship that impress, it’s Lowell’s ability to paint characters; three-dimensional ones I believed in and cared about from the beginning. Character is the biggest strength of a strong novel.

Synopsis (no spoilers): Ishmael Horatio Wang lives with his mother, a college professor, on the company-owned planet Neris. When his mother dies in a flitter crash, eighteen-year-old Ishmael must find a job with the planet company or leave the system, and NerisCo isn’t hiring. With credits running low, and prospects limited, his only choice is to enlist as a crew member on a deep space commercial freighter. Ishmael has never been off-planet before but soon finds himself part of an eclectic crew sailing a deep space solar clipper the SC Lois McKendrick, between the stars.

The title of this coming-of age novel comes from the bonus system used on these traders: according to their rating, each crew member gets a quarter, half or full share, with senior officers entitled to double shares and more. As a new crew member Ishmael is entitled to a quarter share.

After a chapter, I started feeling the similarities to some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “juvenile” books such as Space Cadet and Tunnel in the Sky. No, you won’t find the same level of action and adventure here, no exploding star cruisers or aliens with ray guns, this is the story of a young man finding his way in an environment completely alien to him: life aboard a solar clipper, a trader engaged in business, not war. In a situation like this, it’s his wits, not his skill with a blaster that matters.

As I continued to read, I came to the conclusion that I was enjoying this book as much or more than the Heinlein ones mentioned above. The more I think about it, the more comparisons I think of: Ishmael Wang is a lot like the young David Falkayn, Poul Anderson’s smart, clever trader character. Comparisons to Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson are not inappropriate, and that’s darn good company. No, not everyone will like this as much as I did, that’s the way of things. But I was darned happy to have stumbled on it. Just for comparison, after reading Quarter Share, I read Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel. I liked Quarter Share better.

As mentioned earlier, all of the series is available in other media formats, but in print form, only this one so far. Ridan Publishing tells me the next book in the series, Half Share, will be in print Fall, 2010. They can’t put these in print fast enough for me. In my opinion they will become classics of the genre, and deservedly so.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Adventure, reading, Review, science fiction and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell

  1. Patti Abbott says:

    You can usually find it again by using google blog search. I use it all the time. Looks like a great one.

  2. Patti’s right: the looks very good. I’m buying it now!

  3. Richard says:

    Good idea, Patti, I keep forgetting that’s there. No dice, though, Perhaps I ran across it on Amazon or somewhere. Regardless I liked it.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell « The Broken Bullhorn -- Topsy.com

  5. Had to get this one after your review.

  6. Richard says:

    I think you’re going to like it, Randy.

  7. Thanks for the kind words. I’m deeply gratified–even flabbergasted.

    I grew up with Hienlien and Poul and Asimov and Bradbury. Their stories were about people who happened to be some where and some when other than here and what fascinated me about them was how they permitted the reader to explore those worlds, those times. I’ve missed that idea of a simple story of about people and set about to write the books I couldn’t find on the shelves, but wanted to read myself.

    I’m writing book 6 – Owner’s Share – now and Half Share will be out in text formats in October, with Full Share scheduled for April 2011. It seems like a long time between releases, but it’s as fast as we can manage. We can choose between “fast” and “right” but we can’t pick “both.”

    Thanks again and welcome aboard 🙂

  8. Richard says:

    Thanks a lot for dropping by, Nathan. The book really impressed me, as you can tell. I can hardly wait for Half Share to see print, but ZI like the idea of better right instead of fast. When it is available, I’ll get it right away and it will be a drop-other-reading-and-read-this-one-now thing.

  9. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Cool to get an author response like that. Now I’m going to have to add the book to my list.

  10. Ted Hertel says:

    Very nice review, Rick! And just great that the author spotted it, as well. While not what I usually read, I’ll have to give it a shot. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  11. Chris says:

    I’ve been thinking of expanding my sci fi horizons a bit; this looks like a great place to start. Ordering now!

  12. Carl V. says:

    Well, you hit a number of key points that certainly make me salivate: comparison’s to Heinlein, “coming of age”, strong characterization… it all sounds very, very good. For some reason my brain is not letting me access the exact memories, but I do know that I’ve read a few books that have a similar idea: no central main ‘hero’ character but a number of ‘real’ characters who populate the book and come to life on the page and when it works it is a style of writing that I do tend to enjoy.

    I tend to get easily attached to characters anyway, and when an author is really good at creating three-dimensional characters then I am sucked right in.

    Thanks so much for putting this on my radar. I wish all the very best to Nathan Lowell and appreciate you coming by to share and to update us on the progress of the other stories in the series.

  13. Evan Lewis says:

    Sounds like great stuff!

  14. Richard says:

    There IS a central, main character, Carl, he’s just not a gun-totin’ sword wielding, car-chasing, ray-gun shooting kind, just and every day fellow who uses wit and common sense.

  15. Carl V. says:

    I gotcha. I misread the caption you quoted about him.

  16. Just finished this one and will likely post a few thoughts in the next day or so.

  17. Pingback: Quarter Share – Nathan Lowell « Not The Baseball Pitcher

  18. Richard says:

    Looking forward to that, Randy!!

  19. Patkung says:

    Nice article. 🙂

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