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Nova War (Second Book of The Shoal Sequence) by Gary Gibson

01/10/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Nova War in the USA - or Buy Nova War in the UK

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pub: TOR-UK. 407 page hardback. Price: £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-230-70680-4).

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I'm beginning to wonder about the sanity of publishers who don't believe in including a précis of events leading up to the latest book, even if it's the second in a series. I mean, it isn't like readers are out there twiddling their thumbs waiting for the next book to come out. Whether earlier books are constantly re-read in the interim or publishers are assuming new readers will start with the first book and not look at a second book on the shelf attracted by a cover, only you can decide. Personally, I think it's a mistake not to include one rather than have the option to ignore it. To be fair to author Gary Gibson, you can infer some of the previous novel 'Stealing Light' from the story to get you up to speed but it is spread out.

Dakota Merrick and Lucas Corso have been captured by the alien Bandati after they had escaped stealing alien technology. Through the various tortures, Corso works with his captors to manoeuvre Dakota who figures out what is going on and uses her cybernetic implants to call up an alien spaceship to rescue her. That's pretty much the bulk of this novel's plot by the way.

Writer Gary Gibson's aliens are really alien. The Bandati have similar motivations to the humans but the Emissaries are truly alien with a vicious temper that would make the ID monster from the film 'Forbidden Planet' seem nice in comparison. If anything, the humans tend to come over as two-dimensional in comparison which is a shame considering how much time we spend with Dakota and Corso, even when there is a switch around to show their different motivations. You'd have thought that they would have been more affected by the torture than they were even if the aliens wipe their memories of events by drugs. Having had absence of event memory from diabetic problems in the past, I found it disturbing to find gaps. In a stressful situation where these characters are concerned, then the effects should be enhanced and they're not here. You might not notice such an absence but I'm a reviewer, I'm supposed to analyse. Gibson ensures you follow the events within the story.

The ending, after so much detail leading up to it, is practically abbreviated as if Gibson was aware of the word count and a need to move to a place to start off the third novel. Granted life in any reality tends to be a lot of boring bits between a bit of excitement but the unrest in the events that have taken place has this reality in turmoil yet its position is relegated to just recording what is going on and people acting like headless chickens than taking command of the situation or at least resorting some order. Even in the future, you'd have thought people would be more decisive.

I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about this book. It doesn't mean it isn't an interesting read but more the feeling Gibson is spreading things out to make a series of novels.

GF Willmetts

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