I seem to be reading a lot of books featuring a crew of rag tag, Firefly-esque, semi criminal ne’er-do-wells on a ramshackle but lovable ship, headed by a charismatic roguish Captain. By a lot, I mean two series. The Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding is a steampunk series (my review of Retribution Falls, book one, is here) and Dark Run by Mike Brooks, which is a rip-roaring space opera.
Both are great! Buy them. Review done.
Ok, a tiny bit more.
Brief Synopsis of Dark Run:
When Captain Ichabod Drift has someone from his past hire him for a ridiculously well paid caper – a “Dark Run” smuggling job – he has some reservations but it is not only a good deal, it is also a situation he can’t really refuse for a variety of *spoiler* reasons. When things inevitably work out differently from planned, he and his motley crew have to embark on a series of dangerous but terribly exciting exploits.
I won’t give anything else away.
I really enjoyed Dark Run, an impressive debut novel from Mike Brooks and look forward to the rest of the series. It must suck to constantly be compared to Firefly or even shows like Dark Matter, but I read an interview with Brooks and he fully admitted Firefly fandom, so it’s ok. The characters are great and the story is fun. If you like all the references I have been banging on about throughout this review, then you will like Dark Run. I did.
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
I’ve recently decided to get into epic Space Opera. So I’ve stocked up on Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, and so on. Plus I’ve also just finished the third book of E.E. Doc Smith’s Skylark classic Skylark series. My mind is filled with exciting adventure on exotic planets. Actually it’s always like that just but normally there are slightly more zombies, a few pirates, and a ton of hot women in shiny spandex. I love my brain.
I’ve read quite a few of Iain M. Banks’ scifi stuff and Consider Phlebas is a good one.
The story concerns a guy called Horza who is an agent for an alien race called the Idirans. He is asked to rescue a mega powerful multi-dimensional computer brain called a ‘mind’. The Idirans are at war with the humanoid based ‘Culture’ who are ruled by these ‘minds’. But in a good way. Complicating matters, there’s also an agent of the Culture, a lady called Balveda, who also wants the get the mind. Unfortunately, the mind has crash landed on a ‘Planet of the Dead’ which is guarded by a being from a massively powerful race of aliens that consist of pure energy.
Got that? Good.
Actually the plot doesn’t really matter all that much. The first two thirds of the book just follow Horza as he has a series of extremely exciting adventures across the galaxy. Consider Phlebas begins with him strapped to a wall in a dungeon that is rapidly filling with water and has already reached his head. That’s how damned exciting things get from the start. As a series of mini adventures this book works brilliantly. He joins up with a crew of mis-matched mercenaries, has to fight to the death in single combat, raids a temple filled with armed monks, gets tied up and offered as a sacrifice to a really gross entity, escapes an exploding artificial world, has a massive gunfight in underground tunnels, and lots of other exciting escapades.
I massively enjoyed Consider Phlebas but I am already familiar with the Culture and Banks’s space worlds. Consequently I was able to just sit back and enjoy the adventure. If you are new to his scifi work I would probably recommend Player of Games or Use of Weapons to start with. They are a bit easier to read and work better as complete novels. If like me, however, and you somehow skipped this book (it was his first) then definitely give it a go. It’s full of his awesome ideas and has some truly brilliant episodes. As a novel, it doesn’t quite satisfy, but as a series of Space Opera adventures it’s great.