3 out of 4 stars
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Survive by Charles P. Graham is a science fiction novel that follows several crew members of the Copernicus, a deep-space exploration ship, when they are marooned on the planet Tau Ceti g. To survive, they must work together with a native species of pack hunter that they call pidoggs. The remote location means that rescue could be decades away, if it ever comes at all, and challenges continue to mount as the planet's ecosystem reveals ever more life-threatening secrets.
On the whole, this book is remarkably well-executed. I was able to find only a handful of typos, and other than a few duplicated sentences, they were all very minor. The writing is detailed and well-paced, imparting a sense of terror at the sheer scale and variety of challenges the characters faced without getting stale or boring, and the dialogue, while not exceptionally memorable, is polished and natural. This story's immersion is quite impressive and definitely its best quality.
Characters' emotions are reasonable and conveyed effectively, and their motivations are easy to keep track of. Their different reactions to being stranded on an alien planet are depicted well for the most part, but some characters weren't particularly distinct. In some scenes, the story groups them by gender rather than treating them as individual people, which didn't help. On top of that, the way romance was handled struck me as odd, with some characters falling in love without very much development at all. It was very hard for me to care much about any of the survivors as people.
With regards to the worldbuilding, I feel like this book was immersive but not particularly creative. With a few exceptions, the planet didn't feel much different at all from Earth. The plants are almost identical to grasses and trees, and the animals all have Earth equivalents, too, from insects to elephants. The setting is central to the narrative and portrayed very effectively, but it would have been fairly easy to write this story without any of the science fiction elements, making the fact that it's set on another planet at all feel a bit pointless.
Ultimately, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It's an exciting survival adventure despite its flaws, and if that's a subgenre you enjoy, it's worth checking out. Fans of hard science fiction will be disappointed, though, as most of the science fiction elements are little more than set dressing. While there's no explicit content, the graphic descriptions of gore mean that it probably isn't appropriate for very young readers.
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