Book Review: The Stellar Snow Job
Reviewed by Steph Huddleston
A standout series-debut filled with excellent characters, a fun plot, and a rich sci-fi setting
The Stellar Snow Job introduces us to Alannah Jackson, a travel writer whose latest assignment is undoubtedly more involved than her publisher let on. Not one to shy away from a daunting job, Alannah soon finds herself on a restricted planet and on the wrong side of the law—definitely not what she had in mind for her latest travel guide.
Enter Richard and Eddie, a private inspector and a thrill-seeking pilot in desperate need of their next job. But when their mission leads them to Alannah and the concerning events taking place on Motarpria, all three will find themselves challenged in ways they couldn’t see coming.
The Stellar Snow Job is a delight. This science fiction world is thoughtfully constructed and naturally engaging. Howalt’s depictions of this vivid world also leave plenty of room to grow in future books.
The use of epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter is a highlight of the reading experience. Here, readers will find witty excerpts from Alannah’s published travel guides, her personal notes, and on one occasion, a rejection letter from an unimpressed publisher. Each epigraph is effective at giving us insight into the world, Alannah’s personality, and values, as well as ensuring the world feel more “lived in” and complex.
Readers will not be left confused, with worldbuilding elements explained in a smooth-reading, travel-guide format. These passages are clever and are key to the voice and enjoyment of the story, rather than being purely supplementary material.
“My name is Alannah Jackson. I’m a travel guide writer and I fucked up. Spectacularly.”
There are echoes of other science fiction in The Stellar Snow Job. Comparisons could be drawn to The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy or Cowboy Bebop, but this one is in no way derivative of either. Howalt has distinguished this world thoroughly and originally through the technology, culture, governing bodies (no human-driven Star Fleet here), and goals of the main characters.
While ethical questions are wrestled with, the characters are not overly altruistic and are driven by concerns that feel recognizable to the contemporary reader: concerns around income, drug dependency, reputation, and a desire to make up for past mistakes.
“In retrospect, Alannah knew she should have asked questions… Where was her sense of investigative journalism? It wasn’t like her to be that stupid. And she hadn’t really been, had she? She made the choice not to ask those questions because she wanted this job so badly.”
Complex and flawed characters make what is a reasonably straightforward plot deeply engaging. Whether it’s Alannah’s gullibility and ethical wrestling, Eddie’s drug dependency, or Richard’s self-righteousness, these characters read as fleshed out, with lots of potential for further development. While the primary arc of The Stellar Snow Job is Alannah’s, readers can look forward to what’s to come for this cast of characters. Their dynamic is entertaining while also driving the plot forward.
Fans looking for a light-hearted space adventure need look no further. The Stellar Snow Job would be a great pickup for those who love sci-fi and for those who are just beginning their takeoff.
Publisher: Spaceboy Books
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy / Adventure
Print Length: 153 pages
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