As with most things, there is good and bad. Let’s be generous and start by acknowledging the good points of Convergent Space by John-Paul Cleary.
It is reasonably entertaining. I allowed myself to buy into it, got fairly well hooked and stuck with it to the end. It is after all space opera on the grandest scale, dealing with a far future where Earth is blamed for the Great Wave, a galaxy spanning cataclysm that killed trillions, and has spent the subsequent two hundred years sending its archeosoldiers in all directions across space in search of proof of Earth’s innocence. The Great Wave destroyed the old Guild of worlds, while its successor civilisation, The Renaissance, is a disorganised mess and the galaxy is under threat from a massed invading warfleet.
Convergent Space is fast-paced, packed with intricate plot points and the odd pearl of wisdom rises to the surface here and there. I read the Kindle version and noted other readers had highlighted a few sentences or paragraphs that offered cogent social commentary. And I like the title. So many SF books have really corny or cliched titles that I felt I should give Cleary the benefit of the doubt, and read his book, just for coming up with a decent moniker for it.
But …. and I’ve already given you warning that a “but” was coming …. taken as a whole it is not a desperately good book. It lacks the sharpness of writing style or wit that marks out the best contemporary SF. And its SF credentials are themselves suspect. Space opera, yes, but there is no hint of science, fictional or factual. Convergent Space is at best very soft or even lazy SF. I think there may be one mention of fuel somewhere in the text, but spaceships flitter about the galaxy with no constraints distance-wise or time-wise. Relativity has been excised or vanquished by unspecified means, and ships run forever without fuel stops or maintenance. There are a myriad humanoid races in the galaxy, but no rationale for their similarities – they did not all evolve from earthmen. Sometimes Cleary remembers not all races speak the same language, other times the protagonists encounter peoples who have been living in isolation for centuries in other parts of the galaxy and strike up a conversation as if chatting down the pub. A lot of the plotting is weak – lucky outcomes and coincidences abound. I had to keep suspending and re-suspending my disbelief. And a space-adventurer heroine with wise-cracking floating bot helper did rather smack of the late Iain Banks’s Culture series.
I’m giving it two stars out of five and will probably not bother with the Shadow Ship.