Ghost Probe Book Review
Price sells Ghost Probe as a novel for fans of The Orville. Much like the early episodes of Seth MacFarlane’s show, Ghost Probe delivers an entertaining story despite struggling to find its voice. As an exploration story, it is fun with some good, but not great, social commentary. As a comedy, it tries too hard with too much self-referential humor.
Let’s start with saying what Ghost Probe is not. It is not an action novel. In fact, it has only two action scenes. Both scenes stand out as the best in the story. This makes it all the more disappointing that Price tries to shoehorn in so much humor. There is so much opportunity to better showcase his talents, such as adding adventure elements or more description to exploration sequences.
Ghost Probe is about exploration. Usually stuck cataloging and mining asteroids, the crew if the Ghost is given the chance to be the first to explore a solar system. They aren’t given this opportunity because they proved themselves but simply because they were the closest when mysterious radio signals were detected originating from the system.
At the heart of any good exploration story is excellent world-building. While Price is good at this, shoving comedy in wherever possible limits his effectiveness. Every description is interrupted by jokes. Again, this is unfortunate as Price could have turned out an excellent novel had he limited his attempts at humor.
Price also came up with an excellent idea for a social structure in space. Space exploration is inherently dangerous. Since it’s so dangerous, not many people willingly choose to explore it. The solution was to clone the best people willing to explore it. Most of the people in space are clones of this original stock. The rest of the space-faring community consists of Unwanted. These are babies that were not wanted. Instead of simply being aborted, they are transplanted into artificial wombs and raised to be an expendable workforce.
There’s a lot of prejudice against the Unwanted. They usually can’t advance in rank, typically are maintenance workers or ground-based engineers, and even when they do advance, they aren’t given good assignments. That’s why the crew of the Ghost was stuck mining asteroids for so long. Their captain is one of the Unwanted, and he made sure to crew his ship with a good mix of Unwanted and clones. When the opportunity to explore and catalog a new and exciting star system falls in his lap, the crew goes above and beyond, creating a more comprehensive catalog than most pure clone crews.
Unfortunately, the entire story is limited by the comedy Price forces into the story. Comedy is difficult, and writing comedy is even more challenging. Without live feedback, it becomes even harder to adjust your delivery. If the novel had been written as an adventure novel first and a comedy second, it could have been one of the best indie books I’ve read. As the story stands, it is hard to recommend this novel to a general audience. If you like cringey self-referential humor, you will enjoy this novel. For me, I will be looking forward to reading more stories from Price and hope he backs off on the comedy a tad.