Sunday, 25 October 2009

Nova War by Gary Gibson

September 2009, Tor
407 pages, Hardback
Review Copy

Science Fiction

Cushions: 4
Daggers: 2
Paperclips: 3 (language, nudity)
Tissues: 1
Smiles: 5
Yunaleska's recommended rating:♥♥♥♥

If a title has war in it, you can pretty much assume the book will entail a war. This book, second in the Shoal series, not only has war...but it has explosions on an epic scale. As in stars (in the sky) go BOOM! And smaller objects. But star exploding = pretty!

Dakota's life isn't all about explosions. It's mostly about trying to escape from the prison that an bat-like species the Bandati have captured her in. And trying to figure out where her really cool special skin isn't kicking in. Or why an acquaintance gets thrown into her cell with her. Also why she's not allowed any clothes...

Dakota's secret weapon is that she can speak to machines. Not just any machines, but her own flying ship. This is what got her into trouble in the first place - well, its keeping her alive. She and Corso were both captured by the Badati, but they get a slightly different experience from their hosts. Corso is, in my opinion, a traitor. I only started warming to him near the end, where he repents for what he did to Dakota. His words, although they keep Dakota alive, does endanger her. I think its justice when assassins after Dakota near the end nearly get Corso.

Her own ship isn't the only machine she can communicate with (although that skill saves Corso's life at some point in the story - unfortunately!). She can communicate with a vessel that two other species, the Shoal and the Emissaries really want to get their hands on. If you're thinking shoal = fish you aren't far wrong. They are fishlike in their ways. And the Emissaries - they are something from a horror movie. You donn't want to meet one. Ever.

The depth of detail behind the non-humanoid species is part of what makes Nova War stand out for me. I could have perhaps done with all the worm variants, but they make brilliant antagonists. Nova War definitely has a squeamish factor with hem.

As a second book, I have missed a lot of background information, but there are little recaps throughout the story which helpd clarify things. I really liked the way the end was written, nearly two chapters of winding down the story, showing where all the main characters were, and also setting the scene for book three. The writing is full of action (lots of things going boom); the humour made me laugh out loud at several points. For sci-fi lovers, there is lots of technology and space travelling with explanations included (some passed by me: I appreciate the complexity of it all but there are some things, no matter how well explained, which my brain just slides right past.)

Dakota's isn't the only point of view in the story, but it is the one which I enjoyed following the most. The way her character develops, from wanting to die for her past to needing to keep living at the end, is affected by actions of the other characters. Some are better beings for having met Dakota. Others get what they deserve. She is one protagonist I wouldn't want to get the wrong side of, although she does have weaknesses which make her strengths shine even brighter.

Gary has his own website here.

Liked this? Try The Cassini Division by Ken Macleod


Rose Works Jewelry said...

Sounds interesting :)

Yunaleska said...

It's great if you love sci-fi, like I do.