For his final exam, Shane and his student partner visit a snowy vacation planet to solve a mystery—how could a sub-intelligent species leap 50,000 years in evolution in months to harness fire and develop a language. Their investigation leads them into deadly conflict with a sophisticated gang trying to gain control of the planet for its mineral riches.
Final Exam begins a series, written in the classic sci-fi visions of Asimov and Heinlein, that examines human society as people expand through our galaxy. In this future, there is no dystopian dictatorship, no cyber-menace overlord, and no inter-species warfare. Humanity faces its historic enemy, humankind, but under different skies. Even as civility and civilization advance through the millennia, greed, gangs and malice remain as wolves chasing down the weak and vulnerable.
Final Exam: A Society Agent Story is a YA sci-fi story featuring action, aliens, and romance, albeit with a heroic last stand in place of the more traditional one-night one. Shane O’Ryan is in a top-secret and very exclusive training program to become part of the Society for Protection of Intelligent Extraterrestrial Species, and he and the other five who have managed to survive the five-year program are about to face…the final exam.
This book was a light, pleasant read, and although I felt the characters would have benefited from more depth and development, overall the short story structure was handled well, without a rush at the finish line. It was also a pleasant novelty to have the female partner presented as more competent in wilderness than her male counterpart, for which I have to give the author props – I love to see authors break with stereotypes, and this story certainly did.
Despite that, I didn’t find that the read had quite that indefinable flair that makes a book irresistible for me. Some combination of the lack of depth in the characters and the way in which, despite all the descriptions of the agents’ elite training, they continually made daft mistakes (but survived anyway) failed to completely captivate me. I think a little more polishing would do wonders to bring out the plot’s strengths and clear away some of the dross that holds it back.
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