Metal Boxes is an enjoyable space opera-style science fiction story somewhat reminiscent of Star Wars in that there is a galactic empire with massive warships and independent trader families, but that’s where the similarities end.
Told from the point of view of one teenage boy, Blackmon Stone, who is a navy officer (midshipman) who makes a splash during his first assigned ship, makes lots of friends and becomes a sort of hero to the less respected marines and crew of the ship (Ol’ Toothless, a giant 16 km long navy cargo ship). The writing is consistent, well paced, and entertaining.
The writing is mostly a single-threaded plot that moves along at a pleasant pace and keeps the pages turning. In other words, it’s not a convoluted story (like, for instance, Peter F. Hamilton’s interesting but incomprehensible writing or crazy nonsense like Greg Bear’s recent works). Why does science fiction have to be overly complex with 10 dimensions? I don’t think that is necessary for a good story, and Metal Boxes is one good example that simpler is better.
However, I do wish the events surrounding Blackmon Stone had been more realistic. It is all a bit too convenient–I don’t want to give any spoilers here, so I won’t go into detail, but at the crisis point in the story, even that is turned around in the protagonist’s favor, and I never really felt any suspense. But that may just be my preference for darker stories. This is a very positive and uplifting story and I prefer stories where the hero suffers and/or doesn’t always win the girl and everything.