In an age of prequels, it feels like a unique twist to begin at the beginning, but this prequel novella is a great introduction to the Evan Gabriel trilogy of novels.
Gabriel: Zero Point sets up the title character of Steve Umstead’s science fiction action series, rather than pre-empting the events to come. It requires no knowledge of the originating books, although if you have been fortunate enough to have heard them first, no doubt there will be a few ‘Easter Eggs’ to be found in Gabriel’s origin story.
In the year 2166, soldier Evan Gabriel is an active member of the Naval Special Forces. He’s an orphan who had also lost his brother in a tragic accident. With no ties and an interest in officer trainer, he is soon fast-tracked for a secret military experiment that will enhanced his abilities and turn him into a deadly fighting machine.
The HAMR Program – Human Augmentation and Micro-cellular Replacement – uses nanotechnology to develop elite soldiers with superhuman powers but when Gabriel wakes from the painful procedure, he finds the facility empty with traces of blood left behind. With no training, Gabriel must use his natural talents to control his new abilities and stay alive.
As a novella, Steve Umstead’s plot is relatively straight forward, maintaining interest from curiosity rather than surprise. There’s no plot twists or sub plots to throw the listener off-guard. Gabriel’s beginnings progress in a fairly predictable fashion. Even so, this is a great story after a relatively slow start, and the technological imagination of Umstead is what makes Gabriel: Zero Point interesting. Umstead has an easy, clear style to his writing and he doesn’t try to sound clever with unnecessary techno-babble.
The action is brought to life magnificently by narrator Ray Chase whose deep, commanding voice is ideal for a military tale. His voice is almost a military stereotype, yet he easily switches between the action scenes and the characters’ inner voices. In between, he is never just reading the prose. He skilfully adds layers to the text so we always know the feelings behind the POV.
Chase narrates all three of the novels in the originating audiobook series, providing continuity and cementing my view that the Evan Gabriel trilogy is one worth pursuing.
The audiobook of Gabriel: Zero Point was published in December 2013 by Podium Publishing. It runs for approximately 2 hours and 43 minutes and, at the time of writing, is available as a free download from audible.