However, it seemed like, through all the scattered words, he simply wanted to know who she was and reassure her that she was safe. She felt that this was very sweet of him, even if his methods of expressing it were primitive at best.Deep Cosmos, Project Kyle
Deep Cosmos is a science fiction novel written by Project Kyle that explores trauma, friendship, and the growth that can happen when the two collide in the middle of deep space. When Nerd, an operative of the not-so-secret organization known as Deep Cosmos, saves Sophia, a warrior, from his nemesis Doctor Crimson, the pair are immediately thrown into a race to save a universe full of problems. From rouge mercs, to mad scientists, space is far from a peaceful final frontier for Sophia and Nerd. We follow them through daring escapes, intergalactic plagues, and tumultuous pasts that seek to catch up with them at every turn.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read whose style reminded me of the same kind of absurdly quirky style that made me fall in love with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Between Nerd’s eccentricities and Sophia’s sarcasm, their somewhat zany characteristics and interactions were complemented fantastically by the equally zany settings and situations they were put in (including, but not limited to, a visit to a pyramid-shaped space station and the use of Rubik’s Cube that doubled as explosives.)
More than the zaniness, however, I appreciated the progression of Nerd and Sophia’s friendship, which began as a tentative should-I-shouldn’t-I trust you dynamic to the two of them growing into genuinely caring about the other. They learn in pieces about the other, between their mutual spotty history with Doctor Crimson, Nerd’sinvolvement in the creation of the horrific Experiment-1, and their interactions with third crew member Henry. With the backdrop of a unique, and rather large, universe, I found Deep Cosmos entertaining as I went from a quick and dramatic rescue that set the story in motion through even more action-packed events that led to an ultimate, gauntlet-like climax that meshed old-world aesthetic with the futuristic.
This charm and entertainment that I felt through reading Deep Cosmos, did, however, feel somewhat overshadowed by something I feel plagues a lot of stories that are entertaining with great ideas and that was:
So, let’s talk about it.
Plot, Characters, and Worldbuilding—Oh My!
Several plots work their way through Deep Cosmos. It’s a fast-paced book with a lot happening in a short amount of time. This alone isn’t really a bad thing, and on their own, I enjoyed the various shenanigans and new places that Sophia and Nerd found themselves in. However, the plot felt manic at times, flitting from one idea to the other with little breathing room in between—and little time for our characters to really grow or change in a significant, obvious way. It also didn’t allow for any of these particular plot points to truly develop.
For example, one of the first conflicts in the book that stuck out to me with how quickly it was both introduced and resolved is the conflict surrounding a mercenary group that’s sent to recover Sophia. This group is sent by Doctor Crimson, a nemesis of both Sophia and Nerd. The resolution of this—the ‘defeat’ of Doctor Crimson and the mercenary group—happens close to the beginning of the novel and we don’t really get to explore the larger world building elements (like space mercs—space mercs!) nor really deep dive into the relationships between Sophia and Doctor Crimson, and Doctor Crimson and Nerd. We have a dynamic where Sophia, at the beginning of the book, had been betrayed and tortured by Doctor Crimson, a man who she had been in love with. Nerd, we came to learn, had also been betrayed by Doctor Crimson, a man he had trusted and even respected in the past and whose actions are why he has to go by a code name in the first place. These dynamics are interesting and compelling and drive a lot of Sophia and Nerd’s personalities and motivations throughout Deep Cosmos, but the pay off of them defeating this man isn’t as fulfilling as I would have expected it to be at the beginning of the novel.
It also gave little room to see Doctor Crimson acting as a villain, who, because of the lack development, interactions with the protagonists, and actions within the world, ended up being an overall weak and somewhat cliché character and antagonist. The fact he’s not even present for most if not all of the book was a detriment to the arc involving him, Sophia, and Nerd. I found the same issue with the introduction of the final arc and the antagonist in Experiement-1; fast-paced, but not a lot of time for real development of the plot or the antagonist himself, making him more a one-dimensional villain than a well rounded and truly unsettling one.
This doesn’t just effect the antagonists, but the supporting characters as well, particularly with Henry—the third member of Nerd’s crew. I think he could have been an interesting, well-rounded character had there been time given to developing him and giving him a proper arc in the story, but he ended up reading more like clichéd ‘thug’ character rather than a character who happened to be a thug in deep space.
This under development is a trend through Deep Cosmos, one I think could have been remedied with a little more attention done to expand on the story, world, and characters. I found myself wishing there was more world building done, with missed opportunities to be immersive and allow the characters and world to flourish on the page. There was a lot of potential here, but giving only the foundation left a lot of amazing and creative ideas falling a little flat.
With a lot of stories, I think there’s a distinction between ‘this was a bad book’ and ‘this was a good book with untapped potential to make it better.’ Deep Cosmos definitely falls into the latter category. There are ideas in this book I found fresh, settings I’d never seen before, and an obvious love for the genre and characters that I saw in the snappy, if not slightly flawed, writing.
Given this, I’d definitely recommend it for someone looking for a quick, entertaining read that takes you through the cosmos.