**** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review****
“Pursuing Dreams” is the first installment of what will turn into quite the epic sci-fi series as it follows the adventures of Don O’Hara while he trains as a soldier and then a pilot, all while trying to make his own way free of his father’s imposing shadow. Throughout his training, Don starts to suspect that he is part of something… something bigger and grander then just being the General’s son. As he goes from basic to the Space Jumper’s program, those feelings of unease grow, the prickle of trepidation follows him, and it makes him increasingly more paranoid as he suspects people are constantly watching him and trying to manipulate him, and his friends, from the sidelines. The problem is, Don has no clue to what end these outside forces could want with him or for what purpose exactly. Which leaves Don fumbling in the dark where all he can do is follow his instincts. All that stumbling eventually leads Don to discover the start of several plots and secrets he is not ready to face nor properly prepared to deal with.
There is a kind of “Ender’s Game” vibe to this book that is present in the undercurrents of the plot. A secretive space program, a war that never ends, using kid’s as soldiers to fight said war, a boy with instincts that propel him above his classmates, lots of detail about space combat and simulators, all of those elements are a constant in MK Clark’s book and make me think a bit of Ender. Don is not as stoic as Ender but he’s fun to get to know and his interactions with the others in his crew and his friends from basic are endearing to watch. I wish we got to spend more time with some characters and getting to know them (like Tyson) but given that this is the start of a new series, I have faith that a lot of these characters will be constants moving forward, even though Clark is not afraid of killing or hurting her characters!
Clark puts a lot of time, research, and effort into creating believable sci-fi scenarios and ship combat. You really feel like you are flying alongside Don and can understand why he feels so isolated when he doesn’t have the voices of his team constantly in his ear. That level of detail makes this futuristic world feel whole even though you don’t get to really see the alien forces they are fighting, it’s always space combat for the most part. It’s nice when an author has that level of detail in their work and Clark delivers!
As this is the first book in what feels like a long saga following Don to his ultimate end of overthrowing the Council (not a spoiler, people discuss this in the opening chapter and then the rest of the book is watching how Don will eventually get to that place), there are a lot of questions that get raised. I won’t bring them up because that would spoil the journey but most of those questions will linger into book two and beyond, so know that as you start, for you’ll want to stick with this series for a long time to get answers to all those questions.
This was a fun ride in a gritty military sci-fi story and I’m interested to see where Don goes from here and how he turns from an idealistic kid into someone people curse in taverns. Clark makes a lot of promises in this first book that I’m interested to see get answered in later installments. As the cast of characters in this book is mainly male, despite the author being a woman, I feel like this book is best suited for teenage boy readers who enjoy more mild versions of things like “Starship Troopers”. Clark is a great writer with a grand vision for Don that will take readers on a long, and fun, space journey, but as it is the first book with so many lingering questions, I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.