The Federation Trilogy, by Michael Darrow—Going Native With The Aliens

An indie author contacted us with some free promo codes for his sci-fi audiobook, The Federation Trilogy. (Incidentally, Episodic Sleep Disorders also has some free promo codes, which we will happily give out in exchange for honest reviews. Contact us here if interested.)

It looked like a great space drama, with alien politics and alien friendships, so we took a listen.

Was it as great as the blurb suggested? Read on to find out!

The Good—Universe-Building and Characters

I liked the politics, the alien factions, the strange new worlds and the technologies. This was a fun universe to explore and discover.


The two main characters seemed authentic, also. Max Pappas was a grizzled veteran, and his alien best friend had a cultural code of honor that gave him extra dimension.

Max’s authenticity was probably a result of the author’s life experience. I really felt that Darrow had a military or police background, which he founded his character upon.

After I finished the book, I realized that ‘Max’ is also the author’s middle name… which led me to believe that this character was a self-insert. This could turn away many readers—it often turns me away, to be honest—but since Max Pappas isn’t invincible and overwhelmingly capable, the author doesn’t come across as conceited.

The Mediocre—Character Relationships

The friendship between Max Pappas and Tee Dek Tahn was genuine, and tested through plot-created obstacles. Watching them fall out, and then grow back together, made the first story worth listening to.

However, Max also gets married to an alien of a different planet. This relationship develops with little-to-no dialogue between them, whatsoever. How can you marry a girl without talking to her? If there was legitimate romantic development, the author chose to cut that from the narrative.

The Bad—Structure

I’m not sure why this single book is being marketed as a trilogy. It’s a collection of three loosely-connected short stories in the same universe, but without a solid plot direction.

I feel that if the author were to slice-and-dice these stories and intermingle them, it might create a more epic feel to the universe. The first chapter could focus on Max, the second chapter could focus on the Tahn race, the third chapter could focus on the salvage crew… and the final chapters could bring them all together.

Just my two cents, of course.

What Was Missing—Sci-Fi Immersion

Here at the ShortStoryTeller, we have a well-thought-out definition of sci-fi. The Federation Trilogy didn’t really meet that standard.

Although the intentional setting was fantastic, the casual elements were very mundane. The music, the food, the cigars, the mannerisms—everything was clearly early-21st century. The main character (who again, was likely a self-insert) was obviously Gen-X.

Conclusion: Entertaining, With Room For Improvement

I enjoyed listening to The Federation Trilogy, and I thought the narration by Eric Bryan Moore was truly excellent. He especially did a great job with the sea shanties that he sang throughout the audio book.

The book ended a little abruptly, as well. A good story needs a good ending, and this book didn’t really have an ending. This might inspire some readers/listeners to continue on to the sequel; or it might just be disappointing to many others.

What are some of your favorite space opera novels or series? Leave us some comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to TheShortStoryTeller for more indie book reviews!

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