BOOK REVIEW: Abnett's EMBEDDED and Blackthorne's POINT
Two new Angry Robot Books hit retailer shelves this month...
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Angry Robot Books continues to put out some of the best sci-fi, fantasy and horror and this month, two new instant favorites are available: Thomas Blackthorne's Point and Dan Abnett's Embedded.
Thomas Blackthorne is the pseudonym of British sci-fi author John Meaney, whose previous work includes (as Meaney) Bone Song and Black Blood and (as Blackthorne) Edge. Now, the sequel to last year's Edge has dropped with Point, an equally explosive and character-driven near future thrill ride which again follows retired spec ops soldier Josh Cumberland and his girlfriend Suzanne, a behavior specialist and master of psychosemantics.
In Point, Josh and Suzanne face a near-future Britain that's at once nearly impossible to imagine and yet closer than it seems. The US is in turmoil, the governments are as corrupt as ever, and a new random and seemingly unsolvable series of crimes: cutter circles. These unexplained crimes involved 13 youth standing in a circle, each holding a knife; on signal, each cuts the wrist of their neighbor. Mass suicide in the oddest of circumstance and, with reasons unknown, Suzanne is called in by MI5 to help investigate while Josh, in mourning over the death of his daughter, seeks solace in rejoining the Regiment. Featuring a cast of well-developed characters, dramatic twists and turns, and intense action, Point delves deeper into the incredible world of Edge.
Blackthorne does an incredible job of developing his characters, who again come to life as they did in Edge. The characters' love, hate, anxiety, mourning, despair, pain, suffering and hardships all become real; explained through the events, actions and dramatic relationships built within the pages. Likewise, the story's setting - a fictional, near-future Britain - seems realistic, even with it's incredible laws and odd-ball politics. The conflicts between politicians, religions and the wealthy and poor are all still present and just as involved and active as they are today; something that's both scary to consider and comforting and familiar.
While the story leaves some of the many characters' intentions and actions up for interpretation, there's never any doubt the idea or resolve the characters have for the resolution. Overall, Point is an amazing work of near-future sci-fi with intriguing characters which are well developed and intense action which helps pace the story.
Dan Abnett is known in most sci-fi circles as an author for The Black Library, bringing to life the world of Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 and The Horus Heresy (two of my personal favorites). Now, he works his magic in a world all his own. Embedded reveals a deep, dark secret the likes of which any and every journalist would kill - or die - to get his hands on. So, when veteran journalist Lex Falk decides to attempt an experimental technique which will "embed" his personality, thoughts and mind into a front-line soldier in a combat zone on the colony planet of Eighty-Six, all hell breaks loose...especially after the soldier is mortally wounded and Lex has to take over both the mental and physical.
Let's be clear about one thing: Abnett is one of the best sci-fi writers working today. Ok, now that we've got that out there, it's important to understand Abnett's character throughout Embedded - Lex Falk - is both a writer and a soldier, a combination warrior-poet who's both forced into circumstance as well as relishes the opportunity and ability to be in those circumstances.
A good story is only as good as its characters and plot and Abnett distinguishes himself as a master craftsman in developing intriguing and interesting characters and amazing plots...and Embedded features exactly that. While the story starts off developing slowly and readers may be uncertain of its direction, the action really picks up once Lex becomes "embedded" within a soldier who confronts the realities of combat and finds himself not only scared, but - on almost all accounts - dead.
When Lex is forced to take over the soldier's body and fight for survival, he's also forced to investigate the reasons for the conflict and what's to gain or lose. While the complete answer and resolution doesn't happen until the very end and, while the ending will most certainly shock most readers with its abruptness, it's truly an amazing ride getting there.
Again, Angry Robot Books continues to churn out some of the best sci-fi, horror and fantasy available on bookshelves today. If you're a fan of the genre and have yet to pick up an Angry Robot Book, do it now. Heck, if you're a fan of sci-fi, I recommend both Thomas Blackthorne's Edge and Point as well as Dan Abnett's Embedded. All three are exceptionally well thought out, with solid world-building, character development, and plot.
Pick up an Angry Robot Book at your local bookseller today.
- Jess C. Horsley