When we throw out the term “pioneer expeditions” our minds typically drift to the discovery and settlement of new lands on Earth. Human beings have always been drawn to discovering and settling new and unknown areas. However, such lands are commonly fraught with inherent dangers of their own. From harsh natural conditions to indigenous people who do not take kindly to the arrival and intended settlement by outsiders on their land and in turn use up all their resources. Be that as it may, what actually happens when human beings have finally exhausted the natural resources on planet Earth? Like parasites with nothing left to feed on. At that point, pioneer expeditions will reach far beyond the confines of Earth. They will involve other planets and these adventures will come with many dangers of their own. Literally back to square one in the quest to conquer frontier lands. In his novel Spacewrecked on Venus, author Neil R. Jones presents just such a scenario. Science fiction lovers may just want to give this thought provoking short story a whirl.

The story revolves around the escapades of the crew and passengers aboard a spaceship travelling to a new settlement on Venus. When the ship unexpectedly experiences mechanical difficulty, everyone has to escape in an emergency cylinder. The main ship proceeds to crash land on the surface of Venus. Captain Cragley and his crew soon discover that this was no innocent crash. There is ample evidence of sabotage and it is either some of the passengers or crew members who are responsible. There is also very little doubt about the fact that it is the cargo of platinum bars which they are after. What follows is a veritable race against time. Cragley must not only determine who is responsible… but ultimately get his group to safety before the criminals behind the sabotage show up to claim the bounty… and their lives!

I found the main theme of this story to be quite engaging. The idea of opening up brand new worlds as space pioneers is not entirely unique, but is always full of intrigue and excitement. This tale was no different. There is plenty of action, imagination and scientific elements which are contained within the pages. I consider it to be a pretty good educated guess as to what settlement on new planets would actually look like. A brand new world order for sure! The author also manages to capture and retain the interest of the reader by including some good literary techniques such as the surprise ending. I was able to guess the conclusion beforehand, but such an accurate prediction meant that I was actively engaged in the story.

I did find the characters in this story to be a little flat however. Perhaps that is due to the short length of the tale. Not enough description or background knowledge about the players was provided for the reader to get invested in their plight. Also, a little more access to their thoughts and intrinsic motivations …without giving away the mystery… would have built up more character engagement. In truth, I finished the story without feeling as if I really got to know any of the primary characters.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable story to read. Nevertheless, with some further enhancements and development it could have been even better!

3 out of 5 Space Pioneering Stars for this one!