Book Review: “Gabriel: Zero Point, A Gabriel Universe Novella” by Steve Umstead, read by Ray Chase

I just finished listening to Gabriel: Zero Point on Audible. Here’s a quick review. No spoilers.

First, I got the Kindle book in April because the trilogy it leads to was recommended by Amazon, and the novella was free (it is right now; you can get it here). Rather than buy (and more importantly commit many hours to) the series, I decided to take this novella for a test drive. As I’ve said before, I’m strongly in favour of the idea of introducing a series with a novella, whether that’s book one or book zero (like this one).

Did I mention the audiobook was also free? Yup, 91 pages of ebook or 2 hours 43 minutes of audiobook, both free. Get it here at Audible.

The book is a near future science fiction story explaining the origins of Evan Gabriel, a Special Forces officer in the North American Federation navy. The world-building is fairly light in the book, but there’s enough there to see that the world is fleshed out in the author’s mind. It’s a prequel novella, so I hope the world will be explained more fully in book one. The main character is given a pretty good back story without making it too simple (that is, the reader isn’t sure of all of the factors influencing Evan’s decisions and thoughts; I like this). In some stories there is a single event in a character’s history which drives everything they do, and it makes them kinda one-dimensional. Steve Umstead, by contrast, gets it right.

The narration is good, even great, in my opinion. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks, and this is one of the ones which tempts me to go see what else the narrator has read. The characters were distinguishable, and the girl (yup, there’s really just one that speaks) sounds girlish.

I went ahead and bought the Kindle “boxed set” of three books for a little over $5 CAD. Each book in the trilogy is just shy of $3 CAD, so this is a good discount. Also, since there is no Whispersync at the moment so I couldn’t get the audiobooks cheaply – I’ll just read the text. I’m beginning another audiobook anyway, so that’s fine. I tend to keep one going in each format anyway. Amazon tells me that it’s 656 pages in the trilogy, which feels like a great value to me at an almost laughable $0.50/hour for good entertainment.

So I recommend it, pretty highly. Hopefully I’ll be able to say the same about the trilogy in a few weeks. I’ll let you know.

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