Gareth Powell is best known for is Ack Ack Macaque books, a series of rather fun (and quite silly) sci-fi novels which star a monkey who just happens to be a spitfire pilot and action hero. However, anyone who has read those books (and was paying attention) would understand that they had a solid backbone of world-building behind them which drew on the legacy of science fiction.
Embers of War is a much more serious affair, bringing forth some classic ‘big’ space opera ideas and blending them in with some stand out cinematic sequences, a handful of cracking starship combat and more than a dash of drama and strangeness.
The book opens with a wartime atrocity. Two bickering factions of humanity have been at each other’s throats for a while, and a swift, decisive and utterly abominable act brings hostilities to a close. Trouble Dog, the warship ordered to facilitate this horror is sentient, it’s mind built from organic parts and enhanced with technology. The story moves on in time; Trouble Dog has a ragtag crew now. It has left its former masters to join The House of Reclamation, a sort of intergalactic version of The Thunderbirds/International Rescue. Trouble Dog and chums roam the galaxy, responding to distress calls doing their best to save lives. The crew are were also affected by the war, each one with their own story to tell.
The novel mostly focuses on one mission, and it’s a bit a cracker. Powell has littered his world with a vast plethora of alien life and pan-galactic weirdness. Less is more in this case, and the author knows it. We are shown just enough to realise the galaxy is teeming with life, with things beyond our grasp. From alien beings with different thought/speech patterns to some rather fun ‘Big Dumb Objects’ in space for the crew to mess with, we get some lovely and familiar story elements delivered in an exciting and original way.
The plot moves at a fair clip and the multiple perspectives are entertaining, especially that of Trouble Dog itself. Powell has begun a great sci-fi series, one likely to delight fans of Peter F Hamilton and Iain M Banks. Great stuff.
EMBERS OF WAR / AUTHOR: GARETH L. POWELL / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 20TH