Destroyer is the first book in indie author Chris Fox’s military science fiction trilogy Void Wraith. It tells the story of Captain Nolan, who is sent to the lowly 14th fleet as a form of punishment in mysterious circumstances. As part of the 14th fleet, Nolan learns of a mysterious new threat and must, along with his crew, find out everything that they can of this new threat, all the while navigating the complicated relations they have to the other known races (the Tigris and the Primo) with little backing from their own government.
Brandon Sanderson once differentiated between his steak dinner and his burger-and-fries novels. Using this same broad categorisation, Fox’s Destroyer falls safely and completely in the latter category. This is not, of course, a bad thing: both categories have their places and neither is inherently better than the other. However, any potential reader of Fox’s series should keep in mind that the series is not driven by complex and sprawling plots, nor in-depth character studies, but simply the pursuit of some simple and fun action.
And Destroyer does a very good job of providing the reader with that. Crucial for a plot-driven book, the pacing in Destroyer is on point. The novel wastes no time before putting both Nolan and the reader in the middle of an action sequence, and only ramps up the tension from there, giving the reader pauses in between that are just long enough to build the tension for the next bit of action.
The action itself is also genuinely, well, exciting. This is particularly true of the final third of the book, which is both intense and, at times, quite clever. The action scenes that involved combat between ships were, perhaps, a bit more lacking. The combat is not described quite thoroughly enough for the reader to truly understand exactly what’s happening in these sequences and how, but there is just enough description there to grasp the gist of what’s happening.
Fox’s writing in Destroyer is what I would consider serviceable: like the 14th fleet in the novel itself, it gets the job done. You never really pay all that much attention to it, as it is never quite so bad that it would distract you, nor is it ever so good that it would call attention to itself.
One thing about Fox’s writing that bears mentioning is the length of the chapters. They are very short. While I realise that this can be a subjective matter, with many people preferring such ‘potato chip’ chapters, I personally do not. For me, shorter chapters hamper my ability to get immersed in a story, as the chapters easily begin to feel disjointed—I feel like I am being constantly pulled out of the story and asked to reorient myself. This is especially true of books which employ multiple points of view. In the case of Destroyer, this ‘disjointedness’ is not particularly bad, but it is noticeable. This might be due to the fact that, while Destroyer does use multiple points of view, the book for the most part sticks with Nolan.
Like the writing itself, I would consider the characterisations found in Destroyer as serviceable. For a plot-driven book, I don’t find complex characters to be a necessity, and there aren’t any to be found here. That said, Fox does a good job of giving his protagonists clear and distinct personalities, simple as they are, and everyone always stays true to that character. This simplicity does mean that it is hard to become attached to any of them. Reading Destroyer, I never really cared about any of the characters’ fates. This was never a source of tension for me. However, I think Destroyer does a good job providing enough tension through its action to make up for this.
In all, Destroyer by Chris Fox is a good, action-packed page-turner. Just make sure that you don’t expect it to be anything that it isn’t (i.e. complex or thought-provoking in either plot or character), and that you’re in the mood for some exciting, mindless action.