Zed Hellfinger is a cadet in the force known as the SkyRiders, soldiers who ride devices called Discs. While out on a joyride, he ends up making a shocking discovery and finds himself captured by the enemy’s genetically-engineered super soldiers, known as Thuggs. Zed has to escape while stopping a war from breaking out and stopping a traitor in the ranks of the SkyRiders.
“Zed was certain that this Thugg knew what the outcome would be. For a brief second before Zed squeezed Rifle’s trigger, he thought he sensed something in this artificial beast.
Something like humanity.”
Morgan Gendel is a TV writer whose CV includes shows like Law & Order, The Dresden Files, and Star Trek. Most famously, he won a Hugo for the Stark Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Inner Light,” widely considered one of the best episodes of that series, if not the best. Planet 6 is his debut novel and, for the most part, his transition is smooth and avoids the pitfalls of being a screenwriter transitioning to prose.
Planet 6 reads very much like an old-school pulp action novel. Everything from the plot, the mix of action, adventure, and mystery, the names of characters and alien races (a large humanoid woman referred to as a “Zon” as in Amazon, for example), and the fast pace make this read very much like something one would find serialized in the pages of the old pulp magazines with “stories” in the title. Even the structure of the story, often involving Zed being captured and escaping or being rescued, reads like it was originally written in a serialized form. However, it still ties together as a coherent overall narrative.
Gendel’s action scenes are engaging and vivid. The book opens with Zed’s capture and escape from the Thugg soldiers. It’s a fun scene that draws the reader in and kept me turning the pages. Likewise, the mystery of the SkyRiders traitor is something that doesn’t factor hugely into the plot until later in the book, but is set up subtly without interrupting the flow of Zed’s escape and return to the SkyRiders’ base.
If I had to point to any flaws in the book, besides minor things like the awkward introduction establishing the setting and a few moments of unnatural sounding dialogue, it’s that as fun as it was reading it, I didn’t find it particularly memorable. It’s very much a book one reads once and then moves on from. However, it is only the first part of a series, and I wouldn’t at all be opposed to reading future installments. There is a lot of potential in the world built here.
Though not the most unique and outstanding book, Planet 6 is still a fun sci-fi action ride. If you want a fun, fast read then you’ll very much enjoy this one. Gendel has shown he is just as capable at writing prose as he is at writing for television. I hope he continues this series and I’m interested in seeing where he takes it.—Ben Arzate