Hollow Moon

Rated 4.25/5 based on 6 reviews
A kidnapped prince, a school band competition and an electric cat that eats everything in sight! Join intrepid young heroine Ravana O'Brien in a fast-paced and witty science-fiction mystery of interstellar intrigue. As the dark priest of destiny returns from the dead, Ravana and friends find themselves on an incredible planet-hopping adventure into the shady world of politics, music and rebellion! More

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About Steph Bennion

Steph Bennion is a writer, Westminster civil servant and occasional musician, born and bred in the Black Country but now living in South London, England. Her science-fiction stories are written as a reaction to the dearth of alternative heroes amidst bookshelves swamped by tales of the supernatural. For every aspiring vampire or wizard, the world needs an astrophysicist, an engineer, or at the very least someone who can make the trains run on time. PAW-PRINTS OF THE GODS, the follow-up to her debut novel HOLLOW MOON, was published in 2013.

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Reviews

Review by: D.L. Morrese on Oct. 09, 2013 : (no rating)
Spunky kids, political intrigue, a kidnapping, spaceships, surprises, a twisted villain, clever AI, mysterious aliens... What more could you want? In this case, not much. The setting is the future a couple centuries from now. Humanity has discovered a means to get from one place to another faster than light, and people from Earth have colonized space. They’ve accomplished much, but they are far from enlightened. They still have greed, fanaticism, war, corruption, and reality shows.

Hollow Moon is an imaginative and well-told tale centering on Ravana, the daughter of a space freighter captain living in a hollow moon orbiting a distant star. When she witnesses the kidnapping of the young Raja, the heir apparent of her small, inside out world, she becomes involved in far more than she expected. What she does not know is that she was already involved.

Hollow Moon is a refreshing alternative to the bulk of Young Adult speculative fiction I’ve seen in the last several years. The story is engaging. It has well-defined and well-developed characters, a fairly intricate but easily comprehensible plot, a few smiles, and, most appreciated of all, it’s NOT fantasy! It’s science fiction, and most of the science is reasonable. Okay, there was one scene with an unbelievably strong rope and a serendipitously placed wagon, and a girl who can resist a force that several tons of stone elephant cannot but, well, that’s just details. Actually, I doubt many readers would even question something like this. And then there was the school band that played Alpha Centauri by Tangerine Dream. Um, well, yeah, that’s not a violation of the laws of physics, and it’s cool, but I can’t see a school band attempting it. It’s 22 minutes long and sounds like some kind of ethereal improvised jazz bit done on flute and synthesizer. I know; details, and this one, despite being unlikely, made me smile, so it gets a pass on credibility for the sake of subtle humor. Actually, there are several gems such as this—allusions to contemporary culture scattered about and in chapter titles.

The story is written from an omniscient point of view with numerous characters sharing the spotlight. I did not find this at all confusing because the characters are sufficiently distinct. It is clear who the camera is on at any point. There were a few places where the adults seemed slightly too juvenile, but this is a YA novel and this seems to be common for those. This book does a better job with this, in fact, than I have seen in other YA stories, and in Hollow Moon, sometimes the adults actually act and sound like adults. The pace is fast enough to keep the plot moving, but it’s not frantic.

On the more technical side, the editing is more than adequate, although comma usage may not be exactly according the Chicago Manual of Style for fiction writing. I’ve noticed this is also true of science fiction and fantasy novels from bigger publishers, which may follow their own style guides for punctuation.

I normally comment on formatting in my reviews only when it is dreadful. In this case, I’m commenting on it because it was exceptional. It is obvious that a great deal of attention was paid to formatting Hollow Moon as an eBook. I see so many digital editions, especially from older, traditional publishers where the formatting is dreadful with double spacing, no paragraph indents, or no breaks between chapters. I don’t know if this is because they regard digital books as an afterthought or if they simply aren’t good at it, but Hollow Moon had none of these flaws. It even included embedded links for previous and subsequent chapters at the start of each new chapter (unnecessary but thoughtful).

Hollow Moon has charm, intelligence, and wit, and it is one of the most enjoyable YA stories I’ve read in a while. I highly recommend it for readers of YA science fiction.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

Review by: Magnus Von Black on Dec. 19, 2012 :
This was a really fun read! Hollow Moon is a light-hearted sci-fi adventure with some comedy, some endearing characters, and a plot stuffed with intrigue. I enjoyed touring the star systems of the future, and reading about young Ravana and her friends. I left the rating at four stars because, for me, a five star book has to blow me away, but a four star book can still be very good and super enjoyable. Hollow Moon was both good, and enjoyable. It deserves a solid, emphatic four stars.

As an aside, partway through the book I wrote a little blog about a particularly funny passage:
http://thinkforrestthink.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/alien-and-the-terrorclones/
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Magnus Von Black on Dec. 19, 2012 :
This was a really fun read! Hollow Moon is a light-hearted sci-fi adventure with some comedy, some endearing characters, and a plot stuffed with intrigue. I enjoyed touring the star systems of the future, and reading about young Ravana and her friends. I left the rating at four stars because, for me, a five star book has to blow me away, but a four star book can still be very good and super enjoyable. Hollow Moon was both good, and enjoyable. It deserves a solid, emphatic four stars.

As an aside, partway through the book I wrote a little blog about a particularly funny passage:
http://thinkforrestthink.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/alien-and-the-terrorclones/
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Chris Bullock on July 19, 2012 :
Excellent! I really enjoyed this story - it reminded me of the style of Anne McCaffrey and her characters in the 'Pern' novels.
There was more emphasis on the characters than the technology, which made it a pleasure to read, and avoided the complications of many modern SF novels. It also read as a complete story, and not as a part of many - even though it could easily build into a number of sequels.
I felt that the plot was well laid out with many side interests, and the twists and turns kept me wanting to read more.
Well done - I look forward to the next novel.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Chris Gerrib on July 07, 2012 :
Steph Bennion, the author of Hollow Moon, knows how to write an interesting blurb. Her book is a tale of “A kidnapping, a school band competition and an electric cat that eats everything in sight!” Targeted at the YA market, the story is of Ravana O’Brien, resident of the asteroid / spaceship Dandridge Cole, which is in orbit around Barnard’s Star. The inhabitants live inside the hollowed-up asteroid, which is spun to produce artificial gravity. Chapter 1 starts with Ravana trying to retrieve her electronic cat, and in the process witnessing a kidnapping.

Chapter 2 takes place on the planet Ascension, also orbiting Barnard’s Star, and highlights the exploits of the local high school band (all three of them) while on a field trip. There they discover the spaceship used in the kidnapping in Chapter 1, and eventually they meet up with Ravana. Hijinks ensue, taking place on several planets in two star system.

Hollow Moon is a fast-paced book, full of action. Characters don’t seem to spend much time catching their breath between adventures, of which there are a number. The tone of the novel is “Boys and Girls Own Adventure,” with more than a touch of British understatement, fitting for a British author. Despite the death-defying nature of some of these adventures, the book as a whole works due to the speed of events. I will also say that Ms. Bennion’s teenagers are very believable, and generally engaging.

The book is not without its flaws, however. First, I found the omniscient point of view a bit jarring. There’s nothing wrong with omniscient per se, but if you’re going to use it, it needs to be established firmly at the start of the book. Second, and more of a personal pet peeve, are the subject of aliens in science fiction. Basically, if you have aliens in your story, you should either establish fairly early on that aliens exist and are known or the story needs to be about the discovery of the aliens. Hollow Moon doesn’t follow either of those conventions, rather it tosses the aliens into the mix somewhat in the middle.

The last flaw is somewhat more serious. Without giving too much away, you can’t hide forever in a space ship. Sooner or later, every part of the ship will be visited by the crew. Critical areas, and power supply is always critical, will be visited more often and more carefully monitored.

Having said all of that, I found Hollow Moon a very enjoyable read. Ms. Bennion spent a good deal of time thinking about how her future world came to be, which is reflected in the names of planets and the cultures on them. Her characters are believable and interesting, and I look forward to more from her.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: M. Fan on July 01, 2012 : (no rating)
Ravana O’Brien is a vivacious teenager living in a quiet life in a hollow asteroid on the fringes of humankind’s interstellar society. One day, while chasing her troublesome robotic pet cat, she witnesses the kidnapping of a young exiled prince, heir to a throne lightyears away. Meanwhile, on another world, a three-member high school band sets out to participate in a galactic music competition that is to take place at a peace conference intended to settle a decades-long civil war. The band members—Bellona, Philyra, and Endymion—stumble into the conflict when they come across an abandoned ship that had been used to kidnap the prince.

Hollow Moon follows the antics and adventures of these four teenagers, plus Ravana’s brilliant and eccentric friend Zotz, who will stop at nothing to impress her, as they find themselves more and more entangled in the political machinations and corporate intrigue behind the kidnapping. As Ravana investigates these plots, she ends up learning secrets about her own past that her father, the starship pilot Quirinus, had kept from her

The world-building in Hollow Moon is an impressive display of technological and societal conjecture. The mechanics of the main technologies—such as AI processors and artificial gravity—are described in detailed but understandable language. The futuristic society is similarly well thought-out. In this rendition of the 23rd century, China and India have become two of the more prominent interstellar superpowers, and thus many of the planets have Chinese names (such as Taotie and Daode) while the kidnapped prince belongs to an old-fashioned Indian monarchy that had been set up on one of these worlds.

Although the story takes place in the future, the characters speak and behave in a contemporary (early 21st century) fashion, using variations of present-day colloquialisms in their dialogue. This makes them easy to relate to and sympathize with, as they come across as familiar and likable. Their witty chatter and everyday concerns keep the story light-hearted even as it delves into some of the darker subjects of bioethics and civil war.

With its twists and reveals and colorful sense of humor, there is never a dull moment. The juxtaposition of a high school band competition against the backdrop of dangerous, change-the-world circumstances makes this an enjoyable and unique story with many memorable moments.
(reviewed long after purchase)

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