Edition 16: Book Review: Ambassador by Patty Jansen
Reviewed by Damien Smith
“In 1961, two interplanetary refugees crash landed on a remote beach on the Greek island of Kea. This is not their story but of what happened much, much later.” With that, the briefest of introductions, we fast forward to the future world of Cory Wilson, Nations of Earth Ambassador to the mighty gamra-a collective of worlds and civilisations overseen by the strict Coldi people who control the Exchange.
After page one, I was concerned I was going to be plunged into 300 plus pages of weird alien lingo, terminology and diplomatic sniping. A page later, the president of the Nations of Earth fell victim to a seemingly impossible attack during a meeting with Ambassador Wilson and we went straight to foot-to-the-floor action.
My hopes rekindled, I pressed on. The level of intrigue had spiked but the action was somewhat muted. After a couple of pages I realised I was in midst of an alien political thriller-not my usual choice of novel as I tend to find them unnecessarily convoluted and not particular thrilling.
It was at this point I happened to glance down and I realised I was something over one hundred pages in. I suddenly realised that the huge, Star Wars-esque scrolling info dump that so often accompanies new story universes, particularly those with intricate political threads, was missing. Rather, at some stage during the couple of hours of my day that had mysteriously vanished since I started reading, a whole intricate world had somehow been downloaded into my brain Matrix-style.
It is the sign of a great story teller when an intricate political landscape can be seamlessly woven into your brain without you ever noticing. I was well and truly hooked. The hierarchies and customs of various alien races are understandably complex but not too much to lose the reader. The story is fast-paced and twisting as Cory tries to unravel who could perpetrate the attack on the President and why they would do so, while enduring stonewalling and spying from all sides of politics, including his own. Navigating the complex relationships and hierarchies of the dominant Coldi was particularly interesting.
Cory Wilson himself is real enough, with enough dimensions and history to be believable if not lovable. He’s an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation. The supporting cast of characters are equally believable with their own understandable motivations revealed in enough detail to compliment the story but not bog it down.
In a political thriller such as this, it is difficult to outline the story too much without giving something away. Suffice to say the world building is top notch, the characters well-rounded and some very subtle clues are expertly sprinkled throughout the story.
This was a fast-paced and enjoyable read for someone who doesn’t normally tackle political thrillers. Cory’s story continues in Ambassador 2: Raising Hell. While I haven’t yet managed to get across this one, it is now happily perched on the upper slopes of my To-Read pile.
Ambassador by Patty Jansen
Publisher: Ticonderoga Publications, 2014
Being a writer requires dedication, commitment, devotion, diligence, a skin like an armadillo and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. By this definition, Damien is most definitely not a writer, although he does occasionally put pen to paper. More accurately, Damien is a lover of the written word in nearly all its forms (you can keep vampire romances) and always feels a little down if he can see over his To Read pile.