Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son

Second Son is the second in the Watchers series, picking up simultaneously to the ending of If There Be Giants. This installment follows Grey’s point of view more closely as he learns the truth of his infamous heritage – and how to reconcile his existence and that of his family with their beliefs. However, Grey is faced with more and harder choices than he might have believed possible, and both he and his soul mate, Mallory Jacks, will be tested.

Author Ellison Blackburn’s trademark ability to weave thought-provoking concepts into stories that are gripping, well-developed reads is back on display in this series, as she explores love, fidelity, and faith through the lens of Grey and Mallory’s lives. The handling of the Christian mythology displays the depth of research that went into the story and provides a strong framework that underlies the choices the protagonists must make in this book. This second novel in the series focusses strongly on the interpersonal relationships of the characters, leaving the first book’s tale of the landmark discovery at Gwellen and its scientific exploitation more as a side note to Grey’s personal journey and the questions it raises. This book will definitely enthrall readers who enjoy exploring the boundaries between science, philosophy, and religious belief.

Adam’s Stepsons, M Thomas Apple

Adam’s Stepsons, M Thomas Apple

Adam’s Stepsons

Dr. Heimann wrote a theoretical paper on the topic of cloning. He didn’t expect a desperate military to snap it – and him – up, and throw billions at him to make it happen. Severely conflicted, not least by the experiment’s choice of genetic donor, Dr. Heimann finds himself torn at every turn; most of all between what he knows is right and his orders. By the time he’s finally forced to face the fact that neither his reactions nor the clones’ behaviour can be defined as within the parameters of the experiment, it may be too late.

Adam’s Stepsons explores the hot topic of human cloning; their development, their status, and the more ephemeral topic of whether the ability to think is the basis of individuality. I found that the characters and the plot were well-developed, with a fast-paced storyline. The aspect I found a little weaker was the world building. As a reader, you’re aware there is a war and the clones are being developed to fight in it, but basically world awareness is limited to the lab, the military base beside it, and scattered memories from a couple of the characters. If the story were being told uniquely from a clone’s perspective, that would have been a brilliant tactic; as a lot of the story is from Dr. Heimann’s point of view, it came across as rather odd. Kudos, however, for a great final plot twist.

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch: The Sword of Agrippa Book 1

Antioch follows the story of Roy Swenson, a scientist in an age where science has become reviled by extremists and scientists are hunted and killed on the streets; and in another incarnation, the story of the young Marcus Agrippa, following his Caesar to Alexandria to start a series of events that will echo through history. Other events in that time, less public, still shadow Roy’s life two thousand years later, as he struggles to find support and funding for a ground-breaking research project in one of the few remaining oases of education – the ancient city of Prague. Somehow, the two lifetimes are inextricably linked…

Author Gregory Ness has created a compelling contrast between the two timelines; Egypt in the time of the Caesars, and a close-future society where the vogue for denying science has become even more fashionable. The talking points of Swanson’s research offer interesting food for thought – I would have been happy to see those storylines developed a little more; in this first novel, Agrippa’s timeline dominates the story, and interesting as it is, I felt it rather overshadowed the other. The book is also clearly preparing the way for the next in the series, with a cliff-hanger of epic proportions to lure the reader on. That said, the book was a pleasant read, offering a tempting mix of myth, mythology, and science to pull a reader into the plot.

Feel.It, Ian Wingrove

Feel.It, Ian Wingrove

Feel.It

Roxanne Payne is one of the longest-surviving Tournament Knights, a legend to her fans and a popular icon. She’s also desperate to escape the image that Feel.It has created around her, and live as her own person. Knights attempted to break their contracts in the past, and people died because of it. Now those same killers are threatening Roxanne, and Feel.It’s security is part of the problem. Roxanne has to look to an unlikely source of protection to keep her alive outside the arena – a man with a past nearly as well-buried as her own.

Feel.It creates a backdrop of decadent dystopia, where the masses chase the sensations of the contestants’ physical pain as a distraction from their own lives in a virtual-reality take on the gladiatorial contests of Ancient Rome. Drawing on themes of identity and individuality, author Ian Wingrove has developed a convincing, original cast of characters, embroiled in a morass of lethal company politics and complex personal allegiances, who raise social deception to the status of an art form. With good pacing and intense cameo scenes with the protagonists interleaving with the main story action, this book was a definite page-turner, guaranteed to entertain those looking for something beyond the ordinary.

Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear, Charles Freedom Long

Alvar’s Spear

Gar is a respected scientist on the Antal homeworld of Alvar, despite his status as a despised goldeneye. Favoured by Queen Hakan and working in an area of genetics dear to the silvereye ruling class, he is protected from much of the class hatred festering in the Antal race. However, underneath the veneer of the respected and respectable geneticist lies the leader of a revolution; a leader on a deadline to prevent the eradication of his entire race at the goddess Alvar’s hands. The Antal hive has become contaminated and stagnant, and to survive, they must change or die.

Alvar’s Spear is a powerful story of revolution, love, and acceptance, weaving themes that will resonate with every reader into its plot. The book is replete with conflicts, driving the story forwards: between the goddess Alvar and the direction of her people; between the factions of Antal society; and not least between Gar and the eminent Terran geneticist whose help he must have to save his race. Author Charles Freedom Long’s personification of elements of nature and of the world of Alvar itself is an intriguing way of integrating the wild environment, and it contrasts sharply with the protocol-bound Antal society living in isolation from the world it inhabits. In many ways, understated as it is, the theme of the walls that people build between themselves and other people and things is in some ways the most powerful single element of the book. Like its predecessor, Dancing with the Dead, Alvar’s Spear is a book guaranteed to make you think, layered with concepts to uncover.