Justice 4.1 – The Tsarina Sector Book One is written by Jim Webster. It follows the story of Haldar Drom, an investigator who is sent to try and figure out why a journalist was murdered. As he delves deeper into the investigation he finds a startling discovery that has ramifications for the political landscape. As he uncovers the truth Haldar realizes just how much danger he’s in, and he has to use all his expertise to figure out how to survive the increasingly fragile ground on which he finds himself.
As a disclaimer I should mention that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.
I always like a bit of sci-fi and Justice 4.1 blends space-based action with ground-based scenes, interspersed with a lot of detective work. One thing that I loved about the book is that it’s very streamlined and focused. There is a tendency for some writers to get lost in world-building and there are a lot of sprawling passages about the history of the universe they have created which, while sometimes is interesting, is not always relevant to the story. Jim Webster manages to keep a tight grip on his plot and I never got a sense of indulgence from the narrative. Everything that was mentioned had a story reason and this gave it a fast-paced feel because there was no extraneous material. That isn’t to say there aren’t hints at the history of this universe, in fact some of my favourite passages were when the author described some of the architectural styles, hinting at a rich culture, and I hope this gets explored naturally as the series continues.
Another thing I liked is that while the book starts off this Tsarina series, it still feels like a decent story in its own right. There are hints at a sequel and directions in which the story can go but it doesn’t feel like a cynical ploy to get readers hooked so they’ll feel forced to buy later books in the series. There is a sense of closure at the end of the book, so even if you didn’t want to continue with the series you’ll still feel like you got your money’s worth.
I found the story good, I liked the political elements and how everything came together towards the end. I thought there was a good conspiracy and there was a good balance between action and intrigue. The tension built steadily throughout and I thought the nature of the scheme was very interesting. The main drawback for me is that the characters weren’t quite distinctive enough. I often found myself losing track of who was speaking. As a result I couldn’t form strong feelings one way or another about the characters so I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the book. Hopefully a few of them will be explored more deeply in the following books of the series.
There are a couple of small personal things I’d like to mention as well, although these are purely superficial and do not affect the actual meat of the book. The little thing I liked is that there’s a cast of characters at the beginning, I thought this was a nice touch as it’s not something I usually see in books, and it would have been nice to perhaps have had a brief description of each character as well. It was a nice touch though, and it’s something that set it apart from other books. The other thing I want to mention is something I didn’t like, and that’s the length of the chapters. There are only seven chapters in this 200+ page book, and I tend to prefer shorter chapters as it gives things a greater sense of urgency (plus it’s easier to leave off at set points when you have to put the book down). Like I said, they’re both small things that don’t really matter much but I thought I’d mention them.
Overall I liked Justice 4.1. I think it’s a solid sci-fi story that keeps its focus but leaves room to explore a larger world. I enjoyed the balance between action and intrigue but I feel the characters could have been given more unique characteristics in order to differentiate them. I think it’s a good opening to the series though and I’m interested to see what is going to happen in the Tsarina sector after the events of this book.