This book seems to be becoming something of a lightning rod.

Zenith is of course not the first book to be a love it or hate it read, but it is rare for both sides to argue that those with opposing viewpoints have hidden reasons for their opinions, other than just what they thought of the book.  Those who hated the book argue that people who are praising it are doing so because they are fans of author Sasha Alsberg’s booktube channel, or possibly personal friends of hers, and not because they just like the book.  On the other hand, fans of the book are arguing that the people who are “hating on it” are jealous because they thin Alsberg got a cushy deal due to her significant online presence. 

Honestly, both are probably right to some extent, and also wrong.  Are there some who are predisposed to like Zenith because they like the author?  Yes, but saying that applies to everyone who is phrasing the novel is ridiculous.  And while there may be some who want to find fault with the novel because they think Alsberg got her book deal for reasons other than the strength of her writing, saying that applies to all the critics is also ridiculous.

Also, while I absolutely respect Joe Hill for, well, being Joe Hill, instead of just using being the son of Stephen King to break in as a writer, if a publisher was influenced by Alsberg’s status on Youtube, that’s not her problem.

With that out of the way, where do I stand?  I find some aspects of the book very interesting, but it definitely struggles with the same problem that number of my recent reads have had issues with – character issues.  Sadly, Zenith is plagued with a remarkably self-righteous group of space pirates, who I have a really hard time bringing myself to care about.

The firs red flag crops up early on in the book as the second in command of the pirates, Lira, is left with her own thoughts after a battle, where she reflects on how she totally isn’t a killer.  Sure, some of the people they were fighting with were just killed, but that was her colleagues, not her.  This strikes me like the defense of someone giving a gun to a friend who they knew planned to commit murder, then insisting they were completely innocent since they didn’t pull the trigger.  It just doesn’t work that way.  If you work with killers, and help them subdue enemies who they kill, then guess what?  You’re a killer!

But that’s nothing to the main character, Androma, who has a bad case of “Nothing is ever my fault!”  The biggest symptom is the whole mess with Dex.  For half the book we hear how he cruelly betrayed Androma, showed he is a man without honour, and completely deserved that she stole his ship, stabbed him and left him for dead.  What happened?  It turns out he had taken her under his wing only to find out that she was lying about her identity and was a wanted criminal, and he turned her in to the proper authorities.  How dare he.

Also, though Androma always says he did this for money, this was when he was actually serving as a Guardian, a law enforcement position.  It was his duty to turn her in!  And it turns out that he only did so because the authorities held his father hostage to force him to turn Androma in, and he still tried to warn her about the trap.  But he still has to beg her to forgive him even after revealing this, while she never seems to express anything beyond mild regret about trying to murder him.  Seriously?  He had absolutely nothing to apologize for, and a Guardian turning in a criminal hardly makes him without honor and deserving of being murdered!

Dex wasn’t the only one to get this treatment.  Androma’s parents are jerks, but they arranged for her to escape from jail when she was first locked up.  And she has the gall to be angry that they didn’t just abandon their lives and go on the run with her?  How about taking some responsibility for your own actions?

I feel like the writers were trying to make the characters seem better than simple pirates, but for me at least, it backfired, and just made them hard to like.

Published by Andrew Clendening