Monthly Archives: April 2012

Exogene – TC McCarthy

Since I’m on a roll, I thought I’d review the other book I read this week. Exogene by TC McCarthy is the second book in The Subterrene War. It’s a testament to the author that I only realised it was the second book after I finished it.

In the dark future that is the setting of The Subterrene War series, girls are vat-cloned, taught to believe in a god who will reward them for killing with a place at his side. Indoctrinated with the teachings of the Modern Combat Manual and believing they act for God, they are a ruthless force of killers bio-engineered for war. Their main use is to secure and hold mines, as well as engaging in full-scale war.

Exogene follows the story of one particular clone – or Germline unit as they’re called – Catherine. It tells her story in fragments as she recalls and lives it, and how she feels about being a thing created to fight and die. It tells of her faith and how she first loses it, then regains it.

The Germline units are the Western world’s (American is implied) clone units. The Russians (and Chinese?) have their own versions, and they use different techniques to keep them loyal. The difference in attitudes was interesting, and I found the tale oddly enthralling.

I’m not sure what I really expected of the book, but it looked interesting. It’s not a book I’d have bought without knowing it (but the library solves that issue), but I’m certainly looking at buying the rest of the series now.

It’s just an interesting concept. Warriors engineered to be perfect, and taught to believe in only two things: Faith and Death. They are taught to love death and seek it through glorious battle against the enemies of God. When they die, they don’t see it as a bad thing, or something to be avoided, but as the ultimate reward. When the first girl dies during training, they see her as lucky for being the first one to join God at His side. They have such unbridled faith, and they’re being used as tools for war, treated as subhuman, and given all of the worst jobs.

There’s a certain quality to the book and I don’t quite know how to describe it, but the grim future that McCarthy describes is one I could see happening all too easily.

A good book, and one that’s made me think.

Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson

Well, this is hardly going to be an objective review. There isn’t a single one of Brandon Sanderson’s books that I’ve read and not liked. All, umm… 4 of the ones I’ve read.

What he’s done this time is create yet another world out of thin air, and it’s glorious in its way. Each person has a Breath (which some people liken to a soul) which can be granted to others, or used to perform magic of a sort. The rich and powerful of the realm show this by having hundreds of Breaths, each one worth enough to feed a family for months.

Having enough Breaths makes you resistant to disease, illness, and even aging – as well as giving you the ability to read auras, see perfect tones of colour and Awaken items.

This is where we get to the magic. Awakeners can imbue items (anything from clothes to corpses) with Breath and a Command, which allows them to act on their behalf.

The book follows a pair of sisters from Idris, a remote kingdom where it is believed that a Breath is a person’s soul and hoarding them or using them to Awaken items are sins and heresies. The sisters (princesses of the realm) journey to Hallendren, rival kingdom, and home to Awakeners and the Returned – people who died and revived themselves somehow and are now considered to be gods by the Hallendren people.

There are some hints to the origins of the Returned, but nothing concrete.

It kind of all starts when the wrong sister gets sent to be the God-King’s wife. Their father, fearing war and wishing to protect his favourite daughter, sends his youngest daughter (Siri) instead to fulfil the slightly ambiguous contract he had with Hallendren. The elder daughter (Vivanna) follows, partially to rescue her sister and partially to give herself a purpose.

I found myself drawn into the world, and constantly wondering how things worked and who the key players in the book actually were. While I anticipated some of the twists, I didn’t catch them all, and that was a pleasant surprise. Enough of a surprise in fact, that while my work hours might be over, I’m still sitting at work writing this having just finished it half an hour ago.

A touch of Googling tells me that Warbreaker is a singleton book. I can understand this, and the story is finished as it stands, but I find myself terribly curious as to what happens after the book and exactly how the Manywar started. You get enough of the story through the book and I think actually telling the tale might cheapen it, but part of me still wants to know, just as part of me wants to see what happens with Vasher after the end of the book.

All in all, it’s an excellent book. It’s well written and I didn’t spot any grammar or spelling mistakes through it (which either means I was entranced by the story, or there weren’t any). No real reason for me to mention that, but I can be a bit of a grammar Dalek.

I thoroughly recommend this book, just as I recommend his Mistborn books (the original trilogy of which makes up the other three books of his I’ve read). Especially given I tore through it in three days.

Enforcer – Matthew Farrer

I found Enforcer to be an interesting book. It follows three major points in Shira Calpurnia’s early career as an Arbitor Senioris on Hydraphur. A native of Ultramar, she finds the complex politics of Hydraphur nobility to be a strenuous endeavour she’d rather not have to deal with, but as a faithful daughter of Ultramar, she knows her duty.

As an Arbitrator, she deals with criminals and infractions above the normal call of beat cops, such as heresy, disputes over warrants of trade and assassinations of high-level Imperial officials.

The style of the books is a bit odd compared to other 40k novels, it just seems to flow differently. I quite liked the books, and the stories – Calpurnia’s blunt style juxtapositioning with the flowery and subtle politicking of Hydraphur nobility works quite well, emphasising the difference between the various classes of the 40k universe.

One thing I found jarring was the differences between what Farrer has written as being Adepus Arbites protocols, ranks, etc and what I’d come to know from the Dark Heresy RPG (hardly the most reliable source, right?).

The always-do-the-right-thing vibe can get draining after a while, especially in the third book Blind. Blind is really quite slow to get going, but picks up a lot once it does.

This is definitely a book I should have written something about after I finished it instead of two months later.

I liked the trilogy, and the data fact sheets with extra information after each book was a nice touch. It’s just not as good as the Dan Abnett books. I would happily lend it to anyone interested in it.

For those of you interested in No Rest for the Wicked, the second book Crossfire has an outlook on how one Rogue Trader dynasty operates, focusing on the inheritance of the warrant after the head of the dynasty dies.

X-Wing Series – Michael A. Stackpole / Aaron Allston

It’s been a while since I posted. It’s not that I wasn’t reading, but that I couldn’t quite find the energy to post. And then I procrastinated. But enough about that.

I’ve been re-reading the X-Wing series recently. All but two of the books, but that’s because I’m missing my copy of The Krytos Trap and reading The Bacta War without it doesn’t quite seem right.

Wraith Squadron

I have the utmost respect for Aaron Allston as a writer; the Wraith Squadron books are – in my opinion – by far the best books in the series. He brings in a new squadron of rejects, shapes them into an elite unit and weaves their own story that fits beautifully into the universe. My only real regret is that there’s no real mention of Wraith Squadron after those four books other than a cursory mention in the New Jedi Order series.

Stackpole on the other hand… At one point, I had him listed as my favourite author in the Star Wars universe. In hindsight, I think this is due to the same youthful infatuation that causes Twilight to be so popular. Stackpole’s X-Wing books are less about Rogue Squadron and more about how awesome Corran Horn is.

Where Allston switches perspective regularly between core characters such as Wedge Antilles, Garik ‘Face’ Loran, Kell Tainer and Lara Notsil (aka Gara Petothel aka Kirney Slane), Stackpole tends to relate stories only from the perspectives of Corran Horn (recollecting his tales of emo woe) and Wedge (with the exception of cases where neither is involved), and even then focusing on Corran except where Corran’s not involved.

The idea has occurred that Stackpole mostly wrote the X-Wing books to give credence to his epic “I, Jedi” that would follow them. I just find it a shame that the Rogue Squadron books seem so focused on Corran that it skews my enjoyment of the books. Especially since I’ve always enjoyed reading the series.

If you haven’t read them, I would recommend them. They’re worth the read – especially the Wraith Squadron books. Just watch out for Stackpole’s obsession with Corran.