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Book Review: Age of Iron

Age of Iron by Angus Watson, Age of Iron #1

LEGENDS AREN'T BORN. THEY'RE FORGED.

Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who's vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution.

Now Dug's on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that's going to get them all killed . . .

It's a glorious day to die.




Last year I read a terrific debut set with Vikings, and since then I have gotten a taste of the dark and gritty and historical epic fantasy. When I saw Orbit’s publishing schedule for the second half of this year with the release of the debut of Angus Watson’s Age of Iron I knew I was in for a treat. Age of Iron isn’t a Viking story but it is set in England during the Roman invasion times 40AD-ish, so quite the change of scenery but still packs a heavy punch when it comes down to the gritty dark epic fantasy setting. As you can perhaps make up out of the synopsis and which becomes obvious when you read Age of Iron is that it isn’t a book that shows the good times during that age but shows hard times, how to survive. It’s messy, it’s bloody but it’s good. Age of Iron is written by Angus Watson who has written numorous stories as a freelance writer for several newspapers like: the Times, Financial Times and the Telegraph. Age of Iron is his debut.

The story of Age of Iron picks up with the focus of the main protagonist Dug Sealskinner, a mercenary. He is currently residing in the village of Barton, which is about to  be attacked by King Zadar who is on returning back from his streak of devastation across England and returning to Maidum Castle. Dug isn’t a young “just-out-of-academy” type of warrior, he is old, in his forties and a well seasoned warrior but he isn’t all that brave actually. Though an attack is imminent the villagers still speculate whether the attack will take place at all because Barton does pay everything to keep King Zadar happy. But Lady luck doesn’t work in the favour of barton and their village gets devastated to the fullest, but as luck would have had it for Dug, he get’s knock-out cold during the battle of Barton and falls unconscious just to wake up in the devastation. Now you would think that having witnessed this in particular Dug would fight to set things right for King Zadar, but Dug has other plans, he wants to join up in the ranks of Zadar’s army. He is still a mercenary, can you fault him for that?  

Dug’s character is only the first in the story of Age of Iron that you follow. The second storyline and character that you get to meet up with is that of the young girl Spring, her age is hard to guess but I reckon she is about 7-11 year old category. Dug meets up with Spring when she is out scavenging on a battlefield, Spring is being kept by a big man called Ogre. Dug kindly liberates Spring from Ogre and from there on Dug has another companion, not one that you would think of by an mercenary. But Spring isn’t an innocent girl at all, she defnitenly has some darker shades going on. From the beginning that you get introduced to Spring she is really a mystery, she is shown as a young girl and that is it. Her involvement in the story only becomes apparent later on and that is when it starts to get interesting.

The third and final character that you follow in Age of Iron is Lowa, a twenty-ish year old female archer, from the army of King Zadar. Lowa is one of the best of her trade and is held in high regard amongst the ranks of the army. She is an expert bowman and once she has you in her sights there isn’t nothing that can save you. Lowa and her small squadron of fellow archers get into a trouble with King Zadar... Zadar wants to execute Lowa and her squad, Lowa just barely escapes from her execution. Accidentally or planned by the Gods, Lowa runs into Dug, and perhaps by the charms of Lowa, Dug the seasoned warrior decides to help this “damsel in distress”. But with meeting up with Lowa; fighting against King Zadar, Dug does finds himself on the other side that he wanted to be...

These three characters make up the storyline of Age of Iron. I have to say that Angus Watson really build up his story in a great way. First each of the stories start of individually, where he gives a clear grip and base on every character of the story, only later to have all the three stories collide with each other to great an even better one. The writing style that Angus Watson uses in Age of Iron has a fast pace, and he cleverly switches talking scenes with information that is crucial to the story with several very action packed, gritty and violent fighting scenes. I already tweeted that it is a messy and bloody business and this is shown more than a few times. By alternating the story of Age of Iron in this way Angus Watson created a nice page turner that will keep you reading in the late hours.

I already mentioned the character that make up the main story of Age of Iron and i have to say I was impressed with them. All three of them showed a nice development along the way and foremost Dug proved to be a interesting perspective. He isn’t the likeliest of heroes, he is a mercenary who goes where he can find the best job security and pay, but he is far from the breaveheart kind of mercenary and would rather take a secure place in the back. He is a seasoned warrior and more than once does show that he knows how to deftly swing his enormous warhammer, yes, not a sword but Dug wields a WARHAMMER! Circumstances make Dug’s character to “grow up”, he can no longer just think for his own self but with his companions he has to make sure they survive as well. It a really nice turnaround of events that shape this unlikely hero into one. Lowa also offers a nice perspective on the wars of King Zadar, she was a loyal follower of him right until the moment she was betrayed and hunted down for her own life, now she is hellbent on revenge, King Zadar killed her sister and this is something she just can let be. She also grows thoughout the story when she is all of a sudden no longer able to have everything the army has and being set on her own with Dug and Spring does ask much more than she could have guessed. Lastly there is Spring that has a great air of innocence around her, but she will proof you wrong over many a occasion...

One thing that I liked about Age of Iron was that Angus Watson also shows the perspective of King Zadar, though in a much lesser extent than those of Dug, Spring and Lowa. King Zadar is the bad guy of the story, the King who want to rule it all, and by showing his line of thinking Angus Watson gives another great ring to the dark and gritty setting that features in his story. Because King Zadar isn’t an innocent King who allows his subordinates to go with a simple pad on the back, no you loose limbs or simply don’t walk away from a meeting with him. Though it can be quite visceral at times, for me this only gave a better look on just how nefarious a person King Zadar was and found myself rooting much more for Dug to finally pick up his hammer and swing it...

Epic Fantasy is often accompanied with magic, fiery elemental spell flinging mages. Well Angus Watson goes into a different direction with his and introduces Druids. These are  the closest things that come to magic, but it is never actually mentioned. They are more shown as a kind of seers, advisors and healers. Take for example the Druid of King Zadar, Felix, (yes it does get messy) Felix sacrifices children to read the future. But luckily Felix is only one Druid and there are several others that achieve their goals in a more savour kind of way. Nonetheless though many call it all make-believe, later on in the book Angus Watson does spin the story of Druidism in an interesting way and does make you wonder what all else will be possible in the sequel... this definitely caught my attention!

From the start of Age of Iron, Angus Watson got my attention. This was just the book I was looking for, I hadn’t read such a story in a long while, it’s dark, gruesome Epic Fantasy. Given the day and age wherein the story of Age of Iron takes place around 40AD this whole dark setting definitely works it’s wonders and made me see several scenes quite vividly, especially  the fighting scenes. The build up of the story with focussing on every character individually then letting the story all converge into something much bigger was done in a clever way that with even though you were given a lot of information, about them all,  it was all easy to digest, which was needed given the fact that it has a pretty high page count. Orbit has brought some very spectacular debuts over the last years and they can definitely add Age of Iron as another big success. The story has a great focus on the action scenes but Angus Watson also introduces those hints of betrayal and intrigue into it that gives a true sense of Epic Fantasy. With his debut Angus Watson has managed to hit the rights snares. I am eager to see that will follow in Clash of Iron. In the arc that I read there was already a few words. Look to be another great read.

Review Round-up August

Review Round-up August


1. Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams, Hodder and Stougthon

Though I expected a different type of story in Sleeping Late on Judgement Day as I explained above, but no worries there, Tad Williams still went above Heaven and through Hell to deliver one final, explosive and grande plot twist that will leave you with an echoing WOW. Trust me you won't see this one coming. It takes skill to write the story features in Sleeping Late in Judgement Day the action takes places at the 3/4 mark of the book but this is followed by how everything fit together with the Third Way initiative. Tad Williams keeps up the lively and entertaining persona of Bobby Dollar and his friends but also introducing a gritty undertone and maintaining the dark visions of Hell in his story

It's been a wonderful two years enjoying three Bobby Dollar books on after the other. Sadly the series has now come to an end, or is it... You know I have a gut feeling about a certain something that happens right at the end of the book... 
I cannot recommend Sleeping Late on Judgement Day or Happy Hour in Hell or The Dirty Street of Heaven often enough. These books are a lot of fun to read and breakthrough the current tropes of Urban Fantasy, I have read most of Tad Williams' other books and with the Bobby Dollar series he proves that he is on top of his game and knows how to write Science Fiction, Epic Fantasy, Children stories and Urban Fantasy. I hope he doesn't leave me waiting to long for his next book.

Read the full review here

2. The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs, Gollancz

Did I like The Incorruptibles. Hell yes! I often mention that I like to see author going into new directions with their books and this is definitely what John Hornor Jacobs is doing, mashing up several genres, in a terrific way (mashing up genres often goes horribly wrong), to create a completely never before seen setting. This is one of a kind, in a bestest (i know it isn't a word) way possible. From the world down to the characters, John Hornor Jacobs has a great way of highlighting the bigger picture, keeping enough obscure to be explored in the possible sequel, as well as showing the minor details that make the character tick. Though The Incorruptibles might start of slow for a lot of readers, for me this was just a great build up of tension, getting grips on the richly imagined world that features ever vividly be it in a grimdark setting in The Incorruptibles. The same count for the characters, it might be a lengthy introduction but it readily establishes a baseline for the remainder of the story. And that remainder is a rapid dash to the ending of the book, too bad it is over to soon. The Incorruptibles is a great opener to a new series, you will learn a lot, some questions are answered but a lot more raised. I am already a big fan of this series and am looking forward to see just in which direction John Hornor Jacobs will take his story next.

Read the full review here 

3. The Godless by Ben Peek, Tor

If you read all the parts above I do think you will understand that I enjoyed reading The Godless a lot. It was one of my titles to look out for this year and Ben Peek made it worth the wait. From the beginning of the book right until the end I was glued to the pages. When using a existing theme, it's up to the author to give his or her own spin to it and this is exactly what Ben Peek does to Gods in The Godless. The world in which the story takes place is engaging, exciting and never stops to move; the characters Ayae, Zaifyr and Beuralan have a great narration to readily pull the story forward. The story of The Godless is in essence a coming-of-age and coming-to-terms-with-yourself kind of story and looking at the overall development of the story Ben Peek does a great job with this. Don't think that it is only talk in The Godless there are enough fighting and battle scenes both sword and sword fighting and with a more supernatural element thrown in the mix.  I am going to repeat myself again. The Godless is a DEBUT not to be missed. In the interview I did with Ben Peek I asked him what to expect in the sequel, he said: Innocence... if you have read The Godless you will know what he means. I can't wait to see just to what heights Ben Peek will take his sequel. High hopes! Next year can't come soon enough! 

Read the full review here  

4. The Bullet-Catchers Daughter by Rod Duncan, Angry Robot Books

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is off to a solid start. Rod Duncan has created a wonderful setting in The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter taking in account the big as well as the small things that are needed to make a world go round. He has struck a perfect balance between both highlighting the characters, from our main protagonist Elizabeth Barnabus down to the secondary characters, and the world itself, using bits and pieces of exisiting history spinning it in his own way by adding enough fantasy influences to make it one-of-a-kind. Angry Robot recently has released another book, The Buried Life, that left me with the same feeling. One where you would give everything to delve into the sequel! It is with these kind of books that make sure the fantasy genre is kept fresh. If you are looking for something new and refreshing make sure you read The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, it's is everything you want and much more! 

Read the full review here

5. The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson, Tor

It is hard to say what The Wurms of Blearmouth actually is. If you compare it to the epic ten volume Malazan Empire of the Fallen, it is very different. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are definitely dark, added to it they have a high dose of humor in it. So for me it would fall more or less in the "grimfunny" category. I read the previous books in the series but have to say that The Wurms of Blearmouth is the best so far. Steven Erikson again does a terrific job with showing one of the most memorable duo's from his series in a brilliant light. He will make you look away with some of the gritty and gruesome bits he writes, but will put a grin on your face on many other a occasion. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach is good stuff for a quick and easy read, they are not as demanding as his others, but be warned they will wet your appetite for more Malazan goodness! Wurms of the Blearmouth is a must read.

Read the full review here
 
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(p)review forecast September part 1

(p)review forecast September part 1

Here is my selection of what I will be reading in the coming two weeks, what is your selection?

Cheers, 
Jasper


1. Age of Iron by Angus Watson, Orbit

Bloodthirsty druids and battle-hardened Iron Age warriors collide in the biggest epic fantasy debut release of 2014.

LEGENDS AREN'T BORN. THEY'RE FORGED.

Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who's vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution.

Now Dug's on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that's going to get them all killed . . .

It's a glorious day to die.


2. Control Point by Myke Cole, Headline

Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down--and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.


3. Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone, Tor

The third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world of Three Parts Dead.

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.
 
 


4. Our Lady of the Street by Tom Pollock, Jo Fletcher Books

Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.

Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.

As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.
 
 


5. Andromeda's Choice by William C. Dietz, Titan Books

McKee, a woman who rebuilt her life in the violent embrace of the Legion of the Damned in the days when cyborgs were first being introduced... 

In a different world, Lady Catherine "Cat" Carletto would never have left her pampered life behind. But when Princess Ophelia became Empress Ophelia in a coup that claimed the lives of the princess's brother and all who supported him, including the Carletto family, Cat had to hide--or die. 


She became Legionnaire Andromeda McKee, and now she's a battle-scarred veteran who knows how to kill. And when she's summoned to Earth to receive the Imperial Order of Merit from the Empress herself, Andromeda realizes that the moment is coming when her revenge will be at hand...
 
 

Short Fiction Friday: Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty by Mark Lawrence, Broken Empire #2.5

This 10,000 word story covers a period between the end of the 'early thread' in Emperor of Thorns and the start of the 'now' thread in King of Thorns.

It's really a bit of fun, prompted by a challenge from a reader to warp the tale of Sleeping Beauty around that of young Jorg Ancrath. I may have thrown another fairy tale or two into the mix...
 
 


Mark Lawrence is one of my current favorite writers of fantasy, I devoured his Broken Empire series and his latest book Prince of Fools in matter of moments, they are just awesome to read. Since the next book in the Red Queens War is due somewhere next year I was looking if Mark had written any short stories in his Broken Empire series and lucky me I stumbled upon two. Sleeping Beauty which is set between King and Emperor and Select Mode which is set between Prince and King. So what better way to indulge myself once again in a Broken Empire story!

Sleeping Beauty isn't a direct continuation from King of Thorns that bridges the gap to Emperor of Thorns but it is to be seen as a standalone adventure story featuring Jorg and his brothers. In Sleeping Beaury Jorg departed from the city of Vyene in the midst of winter and plodding through endlessly through snow they have to seek shelter, having it first found in an house, which turned out quite differently then both Jorg and Hakon had expected; they encounter some other occupants. Only later to find new refuge in a cave in Hakon's reasoning "‘Nothing beats a cave for shelter.’ Hakon pushed me on." IF ONLY! The house was a bad place to be but the cave is even worse... Both Jorg and Hakon find themselves bound, trapped and no where to go, they can only submit to the Builders. (oops) 

Yes, Sleeping Beauty, has Builder tech. If you read my reviews of Prince, King and Emperor of Thorns it musn´t have escaped you attention that I can quite ramble on and on about the world that Mark Lawrence has created within the world of the Broken Empire. The influences range from the classic sword fighting and magic casting fantasy ones to near future science fiction. The Builders are an race that has "moved on" (if I may quote Stephen King and his Dark Tower series, which for me closely resembled the world of Broken Empire), but they have left their technology behind and this is something that Jorg and Harkon find out the hard way, in the original series Prince, King and Emperor Mark Lawrence already revealed some of what the Builders are and I was amazed to say the least. Now he has, in my opinion, dedicated a complete short story to how these Builder worked and still work. and it was a treat to find out, exactly what I was waiting for! 

One great thing about this short story is that Mark Lawrence kept true to Jorg's character. In each book he grew up, he was introduced as a downright bastard in the first book but gradually did come to understand that when you work everyone against the grain it just doesn't work, so in the second book he was more reserved and acted more mature but still had his "habits". In the third book it all took an emotional dive in the end which was to say very beautiful to see in the backdrop of all the violence that came before this and to see the actually motivation of Jorg, it even watered my eyes a bit. If you look at Jorg in SLeeping Beauty it is just as you would have wanted him to see in the transition from book two to three. I many parts he already grows in the emotional side of it all with Katherine and his caring for his brothers, but he still keeps this attitude of arrogance that you would wish to strangle him! just how Jorg should be, perfect.

Sleeping Beauty is a terrific addition to the Broken Empire series, I was expecting a different story, but being handed the Builders on a silver platter! YES! I couldn't have wished for more. Mark Lawrence really gave me what I wanted exploring more and more of the Builder technology and even showing a bit of what they can do, which keeps in check with the grimdark setting. Compulsory reading.  

Media Alert: Coming soon from Titan Books: Ghosts of Manhattan

 Media Alert: Coming soon from Titan Books: Ghosts of Manhattan

Ghosts of Manhattan (A Ghost Novel), the thrilling new arrival in the ever-popular George Manniverse [September 2014, Titan Books].
1926, New York. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. It’s the roaring twenties but not as history remembers it. Coal-powered cars line the streets of Manhattan, while zeppelins and biplanes occupy the skies. And the US is locked in a bitter cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe.

This is the alternate vision of the most opulent era of New York. It’s a darker version of history. One steeped in fantastical steampunk innovations and a dark undercurrent of supernatural treachery. Organized crime rules the streets, with speakeasies on every corner. And while a run-down police force battles mobsters and their protection rackets, the “Lost Generation” is drinking away the recent nightmares of the World War. It’s a society on the brink of destruction, where any low level crook could be the tipping balance into lawlessness and disorder.

It’s a time in need of a hero.
It’s a time in need of The Ghost.


Mann's sinister take on this period of history is absolutely fascinating. With beautiful prose and a thrilling plot, this novel will appeal to a wide range of audiences as well as his fans.

Book Review: No Hero

No Hero by Jonathan Wood, Arthur Wallace #1

"What would Kurt Russell do?"

Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace asks himself that question a lot. Because Arthur is no hero. He's a good cop, but prefers that action and heroics remain on the screen, safely performed by professionals.

But then, secretive government agency MI37 comes calling, hoping to recruit Arthur in their struggle against the tentacled horrors from another dimension known as the Progeny.

But Arthur is NO HERO! Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?


No Hero actually escaped my attention when it was first released by Titan Books, it is that I saw the release of the sequel, Yesterday's Hero, which is out later this year that I found out that it was the second book in the Arthur Wallace series. Reading the synopsis of No Hero promised a lot of fun, last year I had the pleasure to read Guy Adams' The Clown Service which also goes about a secret service agency set in England, but this book didn't have that much supernatural going on compared to No Hero. No Hero closely reminds me to something of an The X-Files mashup, it dark and gritty but with a healthy dose of humor in the mix. 

The story of No Hero picks up in a gentle sort of calm, focusing directly on the protagonist Arthur Wallace who is just your average police detective. All of a sudden strange murders are being committed across the Oxford area and Arthur is assigned to track down this serial killer, being the detective he is, he tries to find links and connections with the different victims using their backgrounds. All his effort are in vain as he and his partner cannot seem to find the right things to connect, until they encounter the deadly assassin, a sword wielding women at one of the crime scenes. Here Arthur becomes a victim of himself, he get beat up pretty badly and looses consciousness. Only to wake up and find himself at MI37 and learns that this assassin, the sword wielding women, Kayla is part of one of Britians most secret service. Being confronted with the facts that a more secret service than MI6 exists is something that Arthur finds hard to believe, until he is confronted by some horrific facts, ones that he also witnessed at one of the crime scenes. Arthur gets the full explanation that other dimensions DO exist and that these bring forth otherworldly and supernatural creatures known as the Progeny. The Progeny are alien tentacled creatures set on demise and destruction. And this all is just the start of one big non-stop adventure as Arthur now finds himself trading in his normal homicide detective job to join in up the ranks of MI37 and hunt the Progeny. Because they plan to take over planet Earth by bringing more of their kind into our world, well the Prgeny aren't yet on Earth but their agents are. Even though Arthur is a veteran police detective he is new in the other dimensional hauntings and fighting the Progeny and this does become apparent soon. He has his hands full, but luckily for Arthur he is backed up by an amazing team. 

The title of the book, No Hero, refers to the main protagonist Arthur. He is definitely not a hero and constantly talks to himself with the single question "What would Kurt Russell do?" He isn't one that would jump to the occassion and charge in head first, his personality more like one that likes to hold back and watch how other people go about the task. I most Urban Fantasy setting that I have read I have encountered those proactive protagonist so I found the change to a more passive attitude quite fun to read, especially given with the humorous undertone that Jonathan Wood introduces. Also for me it would be quite logical to first have a look around when being confronted by creatures from a different dimension, my only small remark about Arthurs character is that at one point I would have had liked to see a switch towards being more proactive in his actions, since he had seen a lot already, it's non-stop action. I hope that in the sequel, Yesterday's Hero, a more active Arthur will be show, this will only bring out an even more faster paced book. On the whole I found that Arthur was a great protagonist to read about and since it's told from his perspective makes all the personal elements come out that much stronger.

I already mentioned that Arthur is backed up by an amazing team, this is a slight understatement. Jonathan Wood created a unique set of characters in this team, very creative and utterly cool! A magician called Clyde who doesn't get his arcane gifts from being born with them but with implants, surgically implanted wire patterns in run through his whole body and batteries, yes batteries! Type AA, the kind that you put in a flashlight, CLyde puts them in his mouth and is then able to cast some highly destructive spells. Next to Clyde you have Tabitha a computer genius, but fully tattooed, gothic kind of type and Kayla whom I already mentioned, the deadly Scottish sword-wielding women who rather talks by swinging her sword that actually saying words. This whole merry bunch is being led by the no-nonsense rule of Shaw, she has to make the best possible with a lot of cuts in the budget, and that isn't easy. Next to these character, MI37 does have some additional helpers like the twins, think here of sort of oracle (minority report style) that have clairvoyant moments about when and where and what the Progeny plan, they are there to give Arthur and his new team that edge. All in all some great and original characters, that will be directly to your liking. 

Jonathan Wood introduces a breakneck pacing from when the Progeny make a first appearance and nicely keeps to this pacing. Even though the pacing is very fast, Jonathan Wood doesn't omit any details in building his world instead he cleverly uses Arthur breaking into his role as MI37 operative by feeding you information in bits and pieces as the story progresses, instead of giving an information dump sort of scene. A writing skill of Jonathan Wood is when the action takes place it is all over the floor and can be quite chaotic but as a reader you never loose sight of where what is taking place, keeping you that much more glued to the pages. Added to this is that the action scenes are just the length that you want to see, no unnecessary dragging of fighting scenes but direct and clear to the point with some electrifying bits!  

The setting of No Hero reminded me closest to the The X-Files but with a lot more humor in there. The threat that is introduced by the existance of The Progeny feels dark and nefarous and inspires an impending doom feeling. Though the book does produce enough laughs, the Progeny still come over in their dark way and not an idle threat that you discard easily, it is serious (I hope you get where I am aiming at). Writing on one hand the serious threat that the Progeny are and on the otherhand introducing humorous scenes by all that Arthur goes through took some skill, I think, to make it come out the way it did. For me this was just spot on. 

There are many Urban Fantasy - Paranormal books out there and writing an entry that places you in the top is hard but with No Hero Jonathan Wood managed this. No Hero has some great and bold ideas that are worked out in the big picture but also with a close focus on the minor details. Jonathan Wood introduces some very creative characters like Arthur Wallace who goes from an ordinary detective to fighting the extraordinary and lets not forget his team of "misfits" that accompany him in his newly assigned task, a great bunch and very interesting to say the least. The whole setting of the book is one that also isn't often found in Urban Fantasy it's not a simple case study. Jonathan Wood has kicked of his series with a great first book, the sequel: Yesterday's Hero, is out the 9th of September by Titan and it has the mentioning of a Zombie T-Rex! I am sure it's gonna be another wild adventure for Arthur!

Extract: The Abyss Beyond Dreams


Extract: The Abyss Beyond Dreams  

One of the most established voices in current Science Fiction, Peter F. Hamilton, will return to his critically acclaimed Commonwealth universe. His latest book, The Abyss Beyond Dreams, which is set to be released on the 9th of October later this year will take place between the The Commonwealth Saga and the Void Trilogy. Below you can find the synopsis of the book and yes an early EXCERPT!

Synopsis:
When images of a lost civilization are 'dreamed' by a self-proclaimed prophet of the age, Nigel Sheldon, inventor of wormhole technology and creator of the Commonwealth society, is asked to investigate. Especially as the dreams seem to be coming from the Void - a mysterious area of living space monitored and controlled because of its hugely destructive capabilities. With it being the greatest threat to the known universe, Nigel is committed to finding out what really lies within the Void and if there's any truth to the visions they've received. Does human life really exist inside its boundary?

But when Nigel crash lands inside the Void, on a planet he didn't even know existed, he finds so much more than he expected. Bienvenido: a world populated by the ancestors of survivors from Commonwealth colony ships that disappeared centuries ago. Since then they've been fighting an increasingly desperate battle against the Fallers, a space-born predator artificially evolved to conquer worlds. Their sole purpose is to commit genocide against every species they encounter. With their powerful telepathic lure - that tempts any who stray across their path to a slow and painful death - they are by far the greatest threat to humanity's continued existence on this planet.

But Nigel soon realizes that the Fallers also hold the key to something he'd never hoped to find - the destruction of the Void itself. If only he can survive long enough to work out how to use it . . .


Excerpt:

The Abyss Beyond Dreams, The Chronicle of the Faller #1


Twenty-Seven Hours and Forty-Two Minutes



Laura Brandt knew all about coming out of a suspension chamber. It was similar to finishing the old-style rejuvenation procedure she’d undergone back in the day before biononic inserts and Advancer genes being sequenced into human DNA and practically eradicating the ageing process. There would be that slow comfortable rise to consciousness, the body warming at a steady rate, nutrient feeds and narcotic buffering taking the edge off any lingering discomfort and disorientation. So, by the time you were properly awake and ready to open your eyes, it was like emerging from a really decent night’s sleep, ready to face the day with enthusiasm

and anticipation. A full breakfast with pancakes, some crisp bacon, maple syrup and chilled orange juice (no ice, thanks) would add that extra little touch of panache to make returning to

full awareness a welcome experience. And when it happened this time, there she would be at the end of a voyage to a star cluster outside the Milky Way, ready to begin a fresh life with others from the Brandt dynasty, founding a whole new civilization – one that was going to be so very different from the jaded old Commonwealth they’d left behind.

Then there was the emergency extraction procedure, which ship’s crew called the tank yank.

Someone slapping the red button on the outside of her suspension chamber. Potent revival drugs rammed into a body that was still chilly. Haematology umbilicals withdrawing from her neck and thighs. Shocked muscles spasming. Bladder sending out frantic pressure signals into her brain, and the emergency extraction had already automatically retracted the catheter – oh, great design, guys. But that wasn’t as bad as the skull-splitting headache and the top of her diaphragm contracting as her nauseous stomach heaved.

Laura opened her eyes to a blur of horrible coloured light at the same time as her mouth opened and she vomited. Stomach muscles clenched, bringing her torso up off the padding. Her head hit the chamber’s lid, which hadn’t finished hinging open.

‘Hell’s teeth.’ Red pain stars joined the confusing blur of shapes. She twisted over to throw up again.

‘Easy there,’ a voice told her.

Hands gripped her shoulders, supporting her as she retched.

A plastic bowl was held up, which caught most of the revolting liquid.

‘Any more?’

‘What?’ Laura groaned.

‘Are you going to puke again?’

Laura just snarled at him, too miserable even to know the answer. Every part of her body was forcefully telling her how wretched it felt.

‘Take some deep breaths,’ the voice told her.

‘Oh for . . .’

It was an effort just to breathe at all with the way her body was shuddering, never mind going for some kind of yoga-master inhalations.

Stupid voice –

‘You’re doing great. The revive drugs will kick in any minute now.’

Laura swallowed – disgusting acid taste burning her throat – but it was fractionally easier to breathe. She hadn’t felt this bad for centuries. It wasn’t a good thought, but at least it was a coherent one. Why aren’t my biononics helping? The tiny molecular machines enriching every cell should be aiding her body to stabilize. She tried to squint the lights into focus, knowing some of them would be her exovision icons. It was all just too much effort.

‘Tank yank’s a bitch, huh?’

Laura finally recognized the voice. Andy Granfore, one of the Vermillion’s medical staff – decent enough man; they’d met at a few pre-flight parties. She shuddered down a long breath. ‘What’s happened? Why have you brought me out like this?’

‘Captain wants you out and up. And we don’t have much time. Sorry.’

Laura’s eyes managed to focus on Andy’s face, seeing the familiar bulbous nose, dark bags under pale brown eyes, and greying hair that was all stick-out tufts. Such an old, worn face was unusual in the Commonwealth, where everyone used cosmetic gene-sequencing to look flawless. Laura always thought that humanity these days was like a race of youthful supermodels – which wasn’t necessarily an improvement. Anything less than perfection was either a fashion statement or a genuine individualistic screw you to conformity.

‘Is Vermillion damaged?’

‘No.’ He gave her an anxious grin. ‘Not exactly. Just lost.’

‘Lost?’ It was possibly an even more worrying answer. How could you get lost flying to a star cluster that measured twenty thousand lightyears in diameter? It wasn’t as if you could lose sight of something of that magnitude. ‘That’s ridiculous.’

‘The captain will explain. Let’s get you to the bridge.’

Laura silently asked her u-shadow for a general status review. The ubiquitous semi-sentient utility routine running in her macrocellular clusters responded immediately by unfolding a basic array of mental icons, slender lines of blue fairy light that superimposed themselves within her wobbly vision. She frowned. If she was reading their efficiency modes correctly, her bionomics had suffered some kind of serious glitch. The only reason she could imagine for that level of decay was simple ageing. Her heart gave a jump as she wondered how long she’d been in suspension. She checked the digits of her time display. Which was even more puzzling.

‘Two thousand two hundred and thirty-one days?’

‘What?’ Andy asked.

‘We’ve been underway for two thousand two hundred and thirty-one days? Where the hell are we?’ Travelling for that long at ultradrive speeds would have taken them almost three million lightyears from Earth, a long, long way outside the Milky Way.

His old face amplified how disconcerted he was. ‘It might have been that long. We’re not too sure about relativistic time compression in here.’

‘Whaa—’

‘Just . . . Let’s get you to the bridge, okay? The captain will give you a proper briefing. I’m not the best person to explain this. Trust me.’

‘Okay.’

He helped her swing her legs off the padding. Dizziness hit her hard as she stood up, and she almost crumpled. Andy was ready for it and held her tight for a long moment while she steadied herself.

The suspension bay looked intact to her: a long cave of metal ribs containing a thousand large sarcophagi-like suspension chambers. Lots of reassuring green monitor lights shining on every unit, as far as she could make out. She gave a satisfied nod.

‘All right. Let me freshen up and we’ll go. Have the bathrooms been switched on?’ For some reason she was having trouble interfacing directly with the ship’s network.

‘No time,’ Andy said. ‘The transport pod is this way.’

Laura managed to coordinate her facial muscles enough to give him a piqued expression before she allowed herself to be guided along the decking to the end of the bay. A set of malmetal quad-doors peeled open. The pod on the other side was a simple circular room with a bench seat running round it.

‘Here,’ Andy said after she slumped down, almost exhausted by the short walk – well, shuffle. He handed her a packet of clothes and some spore wipes.

She gave the wipes a derisory glance. ‘Seriously?’

‘Best I can offer.’

So while he used the pod’s manual control panel to tap in their destination, she cleaned up her face and hands, then stripped off her sleeveless medical gown. Body-modesty was something most people grew out of when they were in their second century and

resequenced like Greek godlings, and she didn’t care about Andy anyway; he was medical.

She saw in dismay that her skin colour was all off. Her second major biononic re-form on her ninetieth birthday had included some sequencing to emphasize her mother’s northern

Mediterranean heritage, darkening her epidermis to an almost African black. It was a shading she’d maintained for the entire three hundred and twenty-six years since. Now, though, she just looked like a porcelain doll about to shatter from age. Suspension had tainted her skin to an awful dark grey with a multitude of tiny water-immersion wrinkles – except it was paper dry. Must remember to moisturise, she told herself. Her hair was a very dark ginger, courtesy of a rather silly admiration for Grissy Gold, the gulam blues singer who’d revelled in an amazing decade of trans-Commonwealth success – two hundred and thirty-two years ago.

That wasn’t too bad, she decided, pulling at badly tangled strands of it, but it was going to take litres of conditioner to put the gloss back in. Then she peered at the buffed metal wall of the travel pod, which was hardly the best mirror . . . Her normally thin face was horribly puffy, almost hiding her cheekbones, and her emerald green eyes were all hangover – bloodshot, with bags just as bad as Andy’s. ‘Bollocks,’ she groaned.

As she started pulling on the dreary ship’s one-piece suit she saw how flabby her flesh had become after such a long suspension, especially round the thighs. Oh, not again! She deliberately didn’t look at her bum. It was going to take months of exercise to get back in shape, and Laura no longer cheated by using biononics to sculpt bodyform like most; she believed in earning her fitness, a primitive body-pride that came from those five years hiding away from the world at a Naturalist faction ashram in the Austrian Alps after a particularly painful relationship crash.

With the drugs finally banishing the worst of the tank yank, she sealed up the suit and rotated her shoulders as if she was prepping for a big gym session. ‘This had better be good,’ she grunted as the pod slowed. It had taken barely five minutes to travel along the Vermillion’s axial spine, past the twenty other suspension bays that made up the giant starship’s mid-section. And still her u-shadow couldn’t connect to Vermillion’s network.

The pod’s quad-door opened to reveal Vermillion’s bridge – a somewhat symbolic claim for a chamber in the age of homogenized network architecture. It was more like a pleasant franchise coffee lounge, with long settees arranged in a conversation circle and giant high-res hologram panes on the walls.

About fifteen people were in there, most of them huddled in small groups on the settees, having intense exchanges. Everybody looked badly stressed. Laura saw several who had clearly just been tank yanked like her, and recognized them straight away; also like her, they were all from the starship’s science team.

That was when she became aware of a very peculiar sensation right inside her head. It was like the emotional context of a conversation within the gaiafield – except her gaiamotes were inactive. She’d never really embraced the whole gaiafield concept, which had been developed to give the Commonwealth the capability of direct mind-to-mind communication through an alien adaptation of quantum entanglement theory. Some people loved the potential for intimate thought sharing it brought, claiming it was the ultimate evolution of intellect, permitting everyone else’s viewpoint to be appreciated. That way, the argument went, conflict would be banished. Laura though that was a bunch of crap. To her it was the creepy extreme of voyeurism. Unhealthy, to put it mildly. She had gaiamotes because it was occasionally a useful communication tool, and even more sporadically helpful for acquiring large quantities of information. But for day-to-day use, forget it. She stuck with the good old-fashioned and reliable unisphere links.

‘How’s that happening?’ she grunted, frowning. Her u-shadow confirmed that her gaiamotes were inactive. Nobody could connect directly to her neural strata. And yet . . .

Torak, the Vermillion’s chief xenobiology officer, gave her a lopsided grin. ‘If you think that’s weird, how about this?’ A tall plastic mug of tea floated through the air towards him, trailing wisps of steam. Torak stared at it in concentration, holding out his hand. The mug sailed into his palm, and he closed his fingers round it with a smug grin.

Laura gave the bridge ceiling a puzzled look, her ever-practical mind immediately reviewing the parameters of ingrav field projector systems. Theoretically it would be possible to manipulate the ship’s gravity field to move objects around like that, but it would be a ridiculous amount of effort and machinery for a simple conjuring trick. ‘What kind of gravity manipulation was that?’

‘It’s not.’ Torak’s lips hadn’t moved. Yet the voice was clear in her head, along with enough emotional overspill to confirm it was him ‘speaking’.

‘How did you . . .?’

‘I can show you what we’ve learned, if you’ll let me,’ Torak said.

She gave him an apprehensive nod.

Then something like a memory was bubbling up into her mind like a cold fizzy liquid, a memory that wasn’t hers. So similar to a gaiafield emission, but at the same time definitely not. She had no control over it, no way of regulating the images and voices. That scared her. Then the knowledge was rippling out inside her brain, settling down, becoming instinct.

‘Telepathy?’ she squeaked as she knew. And at the same time, she could sense her thoughts broadcasting the astonished question across the bridge. Several of the crew flinched at the strength of it impinging on their own thoughts.

‘In the purest sense,’ Torak responded. ‘And telekinesis, too.’

He let go of the tea mug, which hung in mid-air.

Laura stared at it in a kind of numb fascination. In her head, new insights showed her how to perform the fantasy ability. She shaped her thoughts just so, reaching for the mug. Somehow feeling it; the weight impinged on her consciousness.

Torak released his hold on it, and the mug wobbled about, dropping ten centimetres. Laura reinforced her mental grip on the physical object, and it continued to hang in mid-air. She gave a twitchy laugh before carefully lowering it to the floor. ‘That is some serious bollocks,’ she murmured.

‘We have ESP, too,’ Torak said. ‘You might want to close your thoughts up. They’re kind of . . . available.’

Laura gave him a startled glance, then blushed as she hurriedly tried to apply the knowledge of how to shield her thoughts – intimate, painfully private thoughts – from the scrutiny of everyone on the bridge. ‘All right; enough. Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on? How are we doing this? What’s happened?’

Captain Cornelius Brandt stood up. He wasn’t a particularly tall man, and worry made him appear stooped. Laura could tell just how worn down and anxious he was; despite his efforts to keep his thoughts opaque and calm, alarm was leaking out of him like ethereal pheromones. ‘We believe we’re in the Void,’ he said.

‘That’s impossible,’ Laura said automatically. The Void was the core of the galaxy. Up until 2560, when the Endeavour, a ship from the Commonwealth Navy Exploration fleet, completed the first circumnavigation of the galaxy, astronomers had assumed it was the same kind of supermassive black hole that most galaxies had at their centre. It was massive. And it did have an event horizon, just like an ordinary black hole. But this one was different. It wasn’t natural.

As the Endeavour soon learned, the Raiel – an alien race more technologically advanced than the Commonwealth – had been guarding the boundary for over a million years. In fact, they’d declared war on the Void. From the moment their first crude starships

encountered it, they’d carefully observed the event horizon undergoing unnatural expansion phases. Incredibly for anything that large on a cosmological scale, it appeared to be an artefact. Purpose unknown. But, given the severity and unpredictability of its expansion phases, it would eventually inflate out to consume the entire galaxy long before any natural black hole would have done.

So the Raiel invaded. Thousands upon thousands of the greatest warships ever built tore open the Void’s boundary and streaked inside.

None returned. The entire armada had no apparent effect on the Void or its atypical, inexorable expansion. That was a million years ago. They’d been guarding the boundary ever since.

Wilson Kime, who captained the Endeavour, was politely but firmly ordered to turn back and fly outside the Wall stars which formed a thick band around the Void. After that, the Raiel invited the Commonwealth to join the multi-species science mission that kept a constant watch on the Void. It was a mission which had lasted since the Raiel armada invaded, and in those million years had added precisely nothing to the knowledge of what lurked on the other side of the event horizon boundary.

‘Improbable,’ Cornelius corrected. ‘Not impossible.’

‘Well, how did we get inside? I thought our course took us around the Wall stars.’

‘Closest approach to the Wall was three thousand lightyears,’ Cornelius said. ‘That’s when we fell inside. Or jumped. Or got snatched. We’re still not sure how. Presumably some kind of teleport connection opened up inside hyperspace. It would take a phenomenally advanced technology to create that; but then, as we’ve all suddenly been granted superhuman powers, quantum hyperfield theory is the least of our problems.’

Laura gave him an incredulous stare. ‘But why?’

‘Not sure. The only clue we have is Tiger Brandt. Just before we were brought in, she said she experienced some kind of mental contact, like a dream reaching through the gaiafield, but a lot fainter. Something sensed us or her. Then, next we know . . . we were inside.’

‘Tiger Brandt?’ Laura asked. She knew all about Tiger, who was married to Rahka Brandt, the captain of the Ventura. ‘Wait – you mean the Ventura is in here with us?’

‘All seven ships were pulled in,’ Cornelius said gloomily.

Laura looked at the tea mug again, ignoring all her tank yank discomforts. ‘And this is the inside of the Void?’ she asked incredulously.

‘Yes. As far as we understand, it’s some kind of microuniverse with a very different quantum structure to spacetime outside. Thought can interact with reality at some fundamental level, which is why we’ve suddenly acquired all these mental powers.’

‘By the action of watching, the observer affects the reality of that which is watched,’ she whispered.

Cornelius raised an eyebrow. ‘Neatly understated.’

‘So how do we get out?’

‘Good question.’ Cornelius indicated one of the large holographic images behind him. It showed her space with very few stars and a number of exotic and beautifully delicate nebulas.

‘We can’t see an end to it. The inside of the Void seems to be some kind of multidimensional Möbius strip. In here, the boundary doesn’t exist.’

‘So, where are we going?’

Cornelius’s mind emitted a sensation of desperation and despair that made Laura shiver again. ‘The Skylord is taking us to what it claims is an H-congruous planet. Sensors are confirming that status now.’

‘The what?’

Cornelius gestured. ‘Skylord.’

With a stiff back, Laura turned round. The high-res image behind her was taken from a sensor mounted on the forward section of the starship, where the ultradrive unit and force-field generators were clustered. The bottom fifth of the image showed the curving carbotanium hull with its thick layer of grubby grey thermal foam. At the top of the hologram was a small blue-white crescent, similar to any of the H-congruous worlds in the Commonwealth – though its night side lacked any city lights. And between the hull and the planet was the strangest nebula Laura could have imagined. As she stared, she saw it had some kind of solid core, a long ovoid shape. It wasn’t truly solid, she realized, but actually comprised of sheets of some crystalline substance warped into an extraordinary Calabi-Yau manifold geometry. The shimmering surfaces were alive with weird multicoloured patterns that flowed like liquid –or maybe it was the structure itself that was unstable. She couldn’t tell, for flowing around it was some kind of haze, also moving in strange confluences. ‘Serious bollocks,’ she grunted.

‘It’s a kind of spaceborne life,’ Cornelius said. ‘Three of them rendezvoused with us not long after we were pulled into the Void.

They’re sentient. You can use your telepathy to converse with them, though it’s like talking to a savant. Their thought processes aren’t quite like ours. But they can fly through his space. Or at least manipulate it somehow. They offered to lead us to worlds inside the Void where we could live. Ventura, Vanguard, Violet and Valley followed two Skylords. Vermillion is following this one, along with Viscount and Verdant. We decided that splitting the starships gives us a better chance of finding a viable H-congruous planet.’

‘With respect,’ Laura said, ‘why are we following any of them to a planet at all? Surely we should be doing everything we can to find the way out? All of us are on board for one reason: to found a new civilization outside this galaxy. Granted, the inside of the Void is utterly fascinating, and the Raiel would give their right bollock to be here, but you cannot make that decision for us.’

Cornelius’s expression was weary. ‘We’re trying to find an H-congruous planet, because the alternative is death. Have you noticed your biononic function?’

‘Yes. It’s very poor.’

‘Same for any chunk of technology on board. What passes for spacetime in here is corroding our systems a percentage point at a time. The first thing to fail was the ultradrive, presumably because it’s the most sophisticated system on board. But for the last year there have been fluctuations in the direct-mass converters, which were growing more severe. I couldn’t risk leaving them on line. We’re using fusion reactors to power the ingrav drive units now.’

‘What?’ she asked in shock. ‘You mean we’ve been travelling slower than light all this time?’

‘Point nine lightspeed since we arrived, nearly six years ago now,’ Cornelius confirmed bitterly. ‘Thankfully the suspension chambers have remained functional, or we would have had a real disaster on our hands.’

Laura’s first reaction was, Why didn’t you get me out of suspension back then? I could have helped. But that was probably what everyone on board would think. And from what she understood of their situation, the captain had done pretty well under the circumstances. Besides, her specialist field of molecular physics probably wouldn’t be that helpful in analysing a different spacetime structure.

She was drawn to the bright crescent ahead. ‘Is it H-congruous?’

‘We think so, yes.’

‘Is that why you tank yanked me? To help with a survey?’

‘No. We’re six million kilometres out and decelerating hard. We’ll reach orbit in another two days. Heaven alone knows how we’ll cope with landing, but we’ll tackle that when it happens. No, you’re here because our sensors found something at the planet’s

Lagrange One point.’ Cornelius closed his eyes, and the image shifted, focusing on the Lagrange point one and a half million kilometres above the planet’s sunlit hemisphere, where the star’s gravitational pull was perfectly countered by the planet’s gravity. The area was filled with a fuzzy blob that either the sensors or Laura’s eyes couldn’t quite focus on. It seemed to be speckled, as if it was made up from thousands of tiny motes.

‘What is that?’ she asked.

‘We’re calling it the Forest,’ Cornelius said. ‘It’s a cluster of objects that are about eleven kilometres long, with a surface distortion similar to our Skylord friend.’

‘More of them?’

‘Not quite; the shape is wrong. These things are slim with bulbous ends. And there’s something else. The whole Lagrange point is emitting a different quantum signature to the rest of the Void.’

‘Another quantum environment?’ she asked sceptically.

‘So it would seem.’

‘How is that possible?’ Laura’s shoulders slumped as she suddenly realized why she’d been tank yanked – her and the other science staff sitting in the bridge. ‘You want us to go and find out what it is, don’t you?’

Cornelius nodded. ‘I cannot justify stopping the Vermillion in a possibly hostile environment to conduct a scientific examination. My priority has to be getting us down intact on an H-congruous world. So you’ll command a small science team. Take a shuttle over to the Forest and run whatever tests you can. It might help us, or it might not. But, frankly, anything which can add to our knowledge base has to be considered useful at this stage.’

‘Yeah,’ she said in resignation. ‘I can see that.’

‘Take Shuttle Fourteen,’ he said.

Laura could sense that the shuttle had some kind of significance to him. It was the sensation of expectation running through his thoughts which signalled it, but her brain still wasn’t up to working out why. She told her u-shadow to pull the file from her storage lacuna. Data on the shuttle played through her mind, and she still didn’t get it . . . ‘Why that one?’

‘It has wings,’ Cornelius said softly. ‘If you have a major systems glitch, you can still aerobrake and glide down to the surface.’

Then she got it. ‘Oh, right; the shuttle doesn’t need its ingrav units to land.’

‘No. The shuttle doesn’t.’

Laura’s blood seemed to be chilling back down to suspension levels again. The Vermillion, over a kilometre long, and not remotely aerodynamic, was utterly dependent on regrav to slow to zero velocity relative to the planet and ingrav to drift down to a

light-as-a-feather landing. Of course there were multiple redundancies built in, and no moving parts, making failure just about inconceivable. In the normal universe.

‘Once we’ve confirmed H-congruous status, I’ll be launching all twenty-three shuttles from orbit,’ Cornelius said. ‘As will the Viscount and Verdant.

Laura told her u-shadow to recentre the bridge display on the planet. It still couldn’t interface with the starship’s net. ‘Uh, sir, how did you load your orders into the command core?’

‘Gaiafield. The confluence nest is one system that hasn’t been affected by the Void.’

And the confluence nest which generated the local gaiafield was hardwired into the ship’s network, Laura realized. Funny what worked and what didn’t in the Void.