| Article by Daniel Eskridge |
Project U.L.F., by first time novelist Stuart Clark, tells the tale of WyattDorren and his team of interplanetary animal trappers as they strive to escape adangerous untamed planet on which they have been purposely marooned. ProjectU.L.F. is a special division of Chicago's Interplanetary Zoological Park. Itsgoal is to find new animals on uncharted worlds and to bring them back to thezoo. It's such a dangerous job that its members are recruited from the ranksof dangerous criminals.
Wyatt Dorren was once such a criminal, but at the beginning of the novelhas risen through the ranks to become the division head of Project ULF. He isso popular that the IZP Director Douglass Mannheim has decided that Dorren isa threat. He concocts a plot to send Wyatt and a team of under equipped misfitsto a highly dangerous world with inadequate means of return. Through an unfortunateseries of events, Kate Frere, a starry eyed recent college graduate, findsherself along for the ride. What follows is a pretty straight forward manversus nature story as Wyatt's team must overcome their internal strife whilethey struggle to survive and escape back to earth.
For a first novel, Project U.L.F is quite good. The style is clear, thecharacters well defined, and the story engrossing. As far as science fictiongoes, it definitely favors fiction over science, with the focus on action anddrama rather than speculation and technology. This story could easily havetaken place in the early 20th century Amazon jungle rather than an alien world.In fact, I felt a little like I was reading a Pulp era science fiction novel written in the vein of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. Though I wouldn't really classify it as a YA novel, with only slight adult language and one adult themed scene this novel would be safe for teens.
I did have a couple of problems with the story. The villain's motives area tad weak. Mannheim really has no good reason to resort to murder. As anygood corporate backstabber knows, it's much more prudent just to get your enemiesfired. Also, one of the subplots that bothered me involves Wyatt's criminalpast. It is mentioned prominently in the story, but in the end has no real effecton the plot, except as the basis for some of Wyatt's emotional responses. Iwould like to have seen it more tied to the plot, say perhaps a victim from Wyatt'spast playing a hand in the plot against him. Otherwise, I don't think that thenovel would have suffered if that thread had been trimmed down significantly.But, those are minor points. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and recommend it toanyone looking for a good story of survival and adventure.