Two reviews for the price of one!
It’s kind of unfair to compare Erebos to Ready Player One, but that was what I assumed going in. The only thing the two books have in common, really, is that they both take place at least partially inside video games and that I enjoyed them both immensely. Nick Dunmore is a 16 year old student whose classmates have begun acting…strange. Several of them have been passing around jewel cases with a MYSTERIOUS DVD. Questioning his basketball teammate gets him no where, no one at all is willing to answer any questions. One day this girl he doesn’t particularly care for comes up to him and asks him to step into this corner with her. He only agrees because he thinks he’s finally going to learn what all the hush-hushiness is about. She hands him a game. It’s not just a game, though. It’s a secret game. A game that you can’t even talk about with other players. A game that has kids ditching school or showing up with bloodshot eyes – that leaves them drooling on their desks from lack of sleep. When he gets home and boots it up, he gets sucked into a world that will impact his real life – not just that of his game character.
I don’t want to get all spoilery for you guys because I think this is one that you might want to check out for yourselves. The plot was solid, the pacing was nice and the majority of the main characters were well developed. There was kind of a neat device where all time spent in game was written in the present tense, and everything in Nick’s real life was written in the past. It took a bit to get used to, but once I did I thought it was an interesting way of making sure the reader is as fully immersed as Nick is.
The few problems that I had with it were kind of minor nitpicks. The formatting was pretty wonky for my reader. I’m not sure if this is because it was a review galley, or if this is the way it will be for everyone (the book was released this January). If you buy a digital copy, you might want to check that out ahead of time. You see that eye on the cover? That’s at the top of every new chapter. Because of my screwy formatting, it wouldn’t even always be there – it sometimes ended up in the middle of the page, two pages after the chapter began. A slight irritant.
The other problem I had with it was possibly because of the translation. This book was originally published in German in 2010, and the strange idioms used sometimes may just have not translated well.
The Deacon’s Tale
As the sub-title shows in the full cover art above, this is a Sword of the Stars novel. Sword of the Stars is a PC game that I have never played, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book.
Set in the 25th century, humanity (and the Roman Catholic church) have expanded to many different planets and systems and we have tentative alliances with several different species. Cai Rui is both an archdeacon for the Church and the Task Commander of the Black Section of the Sol Force Intelligence Corps. For years, an un-known species has been swooping in and abducting entire populations of planets, but they leave no evidence of who or what they are behind.
“They take our people,” he said quietly. “They snatch up their victims whenever and wherever our backs are turned, anywhere that they find our defenses weak. By the time we can react, they’ve vanished without a trace. The ones we lose are never seen again.”
He let the last image linger. It was a churned expanse of muddy ground, the surface trampled by hundreds walking through an open field. A series of stills moved closer and closer to the footprints, the tracks of heavy-treaded boots and atmospheric work units mingled with thermal shoes and household slippers. In the final close-up, a single track had been captured, driven into the near-freezing mud of a summer thaw and then fossilized by the returning ice. It was the slim silhouette of a child’s foot, toes splayed and bare in the punishing cold.
This is another story I’ve no interest in spoiling for you. If you’re at all into space-operas or political/military thrillers with amazingly tense battle scenes, I urge you to pick this one up. Author Arinn Dembo’s background is the horror genre and there are some definite gasp-inducing moments where that is quite obvious. I recommended this to my dad before I was even done reading it, and I’ll continue to recommend it to pretty much everyone I know. It’s on my short list for Top Five of 2012 already.
The coolest thing about this book was how full of depth it was. Each of the different species felt incredibly real, like we’ve already made first contact with them. I especially loved the appendices where the author gives us history on each species as well as fleshes out historical milestones mentioned in passing in the novel proper. I was really surprised when I got to the end of the story because there were so many pages left to read – that the remaining pages were history and lore and backstory was an amazing bonus. Loved that, I wish I saw things like that more often.
Based on the above rubric, The Deacon’s Tale earned 4.7 stars from me. I’ll definitely be re-reading it and look forward to more stories set in this universe.
Thanks to Kthonia Press and Arinn Dembo for the review copy of this book, I really do appreciate it.