Children of Dune by Frank Herbert – 2/5 Stars

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert - front cover

Paul decided to disappear into the desert with his visions of past, present, and future. His empire disappears with him, leaving corruption, vice, and greed in his wake. The ecology of Dune is adapting, and water is plentiful. The old Fremen ways are dying out, and moisture-fat Fremen live in the towns, grown soft with privilege, and fearful of their incompetence to the tyranny.

The third Dune novel focuses on the abnormal children of Paul Muad’ Dib and Chani, who the Bene Gesserit faction fear are both at risk of becoming abominations. As if to give truth to the theory, Paul’s sister Alia is overwhelmed by the tumult of voices from the living consciousness of memory that exists inside her and she becomes tyrant, in thrall to a familiar evil voice from the first Dune book.

There were many scenes and parts I enjoyed in Children of Dune: the children attempting to escape death from the beasts of assassination, the Lady Jessica’s attempted escape from her mad daughter Alia, and Leto II’s rise to prominence.

However, more than half of the story was mired in irrelevant conspiracy, corruption, nostalgia, and uninteresting characters. Children of Dune was a disappointment, for three main reasons:

Firstly, the character focus is off, and what binds the subplots together is the planned assassination of the children of Paul Muad’Dib and Chani. Both of the parents are now dead as characters, and there wasn’t much about either boy Leto or girl Ghanima that made them unique characters. They were lenses into the past characters and events in Dune, the first story. Through the story I had my fill of all-knowing children with many memories of lives stretching back to ancient times. Though the contrast between abomination Alia and the children was meant to be illustrative, the delivery of differences was tiresome, complex, and littered through the text.

Secondly, the book was all about nostalgia: what Paul had said to Chani or his mother Lady Jessica; dead characters returning in new forms; or inflexible Stilgar being Stilgar. It was okay with Duncan Idaho in the second book Dune Messiah because the author added a more developed, if not entirely plausible, idea about his flesh being resurrected and him being given new abilities. As a character Duncan Idaho had changed. There is change in Children of Dune but the emphasis of that change wasn’t interesting enough: about a bureaucracy having grown large and corrupt, no longer recognising the days of die-hard Fremen. I thought we had covered this in Dune Messiah so returning to it and exploring it further made it read like a history of Dune than a great science fiction novel.

Third, these visions have gone too far! As with the many-lives of the children, the intricacies of how the omnipresent visions work go beyond comprehension and into a realm of justified contradiction, and of the nonsensical.

I actually really enjoyed the last third of the book, which did tie some loose ends together and it moved the story forward through immediate action – Leto II’s struggle to escape captors and learn the truth of his purpose on Dune. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ll read this book a third time.

Children of Dune on Amazon

The Official Dune Website

Blade Runner 2049 Review

Blade Runner 2049 - Unofficial Photo

I’ve only watched Blade Runner 2049 once. There are no big spoilers, and below I’ve also included a summary of the main plot in the review.

K … (later referred to as K) is a Blade Runner hunting replicants. Sounds familiar, but times have changed now and there are a new series of replicants, some of which are recruited to hunt the older series. K justifies hunting older models who ‘run’, having been steeled for his job by intense psychological training akin to brainwashing (‘cells are interlinked’) that first appear as a way to make K think he is human to protect human interests or to adhere to a baseline of standard operating behaviour that is fit for a Blade Runner. It’s a bit like the Voight-Kampff test in the first Blade Runner, but this time it’s for a replicant working as one, and not to determine whether a human is a replicant.

Blade Runner 2049 - Unofficial Photo2

The first job we see him carry out is to ‘retire’ a replicant who lives and works as a protein farmer, but wasn’t always a farmer, having likely been a replicant working off world as slave labour. Most older-series replicants used to work as slaves. The replicant is extremely strong and well-built, and looks more than capable of ripping K apart, and having seen the extraordinary strength of replicants in the first film we don’t think we’ll be surprised by the result. Understandably, he replicant isn’t happy that K has intruded on his home and does not want to have his eye scanned prior to being taken in, where it can be assumed he will be ‘retired’ anyway. A vicious fight ensues, after which K survives. He does find something interesting on the farm, a casket of bones, and reports the find to headquarters before making his way there.

At headquarters, analysis shows that the bones belong to a woman who had a C-section. What’s strange – and ‘ominous’ to most of the human workers doing the analysis next to K – is that the woman was a replicant! A replicant reproduced! How or why is not known and K’s boss Lieutenant Joshi doesn’t even care so long as the truth is hidden and all evidence, including a surviving child, is erased. The balance between humanity and replicant has to be preserved, for the sake of appearances if nothing else. K is ordered to find and kill the missing child, who has grown up now, but he has immediate misgivings. K is trained to kill replicants without ‘souls’ and children or beings that are born are considered to have souls. Ironically his Joshi comments that K has managed to get along fine without one, until this time, which makes us see how similar in terms of detaching themselves from empathy killer-replicant K is to human Joshi.

This odd parallel between human consciousness and the replicant non-consciousness is apparent on Earth in everyday life. People frequently hurl abuse at K, calling him a ‘skin job’, and these are even the same people who live in his apartment block. K himself seems at first to wholly dismiss human women as potential partners because he has a relationship with a holographic customisable artificial intelligence called Joi. However, as the problem of her unreality hits him he opts for a blurring of the lines, a best of both solution to his needs. Why? He can’t touch Joi, or share physical intimacy. She’s locked in his apartment’s digital network, and if he receives a call or there is interference then she either pauses or disappears. That’s not good, is it? But K instinctively knows he shares something special with her on an emotional level, and seeks to free her from her constraints. She, in turn, wants to help bridge the gap between their realities. I thought it was quite sad how they seemed trapped away from each other. I kept worrying that her behaviour was just programming – I suppose it’s inevitable for a human to think about artificial life-forms in this way – but I really wanted their connection to be real.

A recurring theme in Blade Runner 2049 was the reality of dreams. If our dreams aren’t real, it means we’re not real. Having implanted dreams means somebody has a level of control over your mind  – or had at some point – and this realisation can be terrifying. We live in a world not unlike that of Blade Runner 2049. We have technology where our voices can be recorded and our every movement seen or monitored. It’s this level of technological manipulation, intrusion, and control that is at its most powerful and dangerous to the individual in Blade Runner 2049. To humans as they exist in the film, human lives are expendable and human emotions are secondary in both humans and replicants. Pleasure – human hookers, pleasure models, giant holographic women, and statues – are seen as appropriate substitutes. Despite all the artificial or holographic glamour, we do see a contrast between its falsity and the genuine bonds shared between two beings. Even in a corporate-controlled world where technology is plugged in everywhere there can be hope and true humanity (even if it’s not always between humans as we know them).

Blade Runner 2049 - Unofficial Photo3

Blade Runner 2049 has amazing visuals, just like the first film. There was a motorbike sound throughout town that pressured the audience into thinking something deadly was always on the verge of occurring. Holographic scantily clad women and brands advertising were to be seen everywhere. You could be forgiven, in some shots, of thinking the world bore some resemblance to Star Wars’ Coruscant, in scope, but the lack of aircraft gave it that post-apocalyptic hunter-in-his-car feel. There was more action than the first film, but there were enough characters and depth to appreciate it as equal to its predecessor, and the audience kept wondering who was to be trusted. K was a contrast to Deckard, being emotionally suppressed and psychologically trained for his job – as well as being a replicant – and without the emotional human vulnerability side that Deckard shows. K cast his emotions aside, and like fought a robotic thug, even though we know he is disturbed by dreams that later threaten to ask himself questions about his identity.

Official Blade Runner Website

(The website requests cookies, but for what purpose, now or in 32 years’ time, we’ll never know.)

Star Wars: Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn – 4/5 Stars

Star Wars Darth Bane Dynasty of Evil - front coverStar Wars Darth Bane Dynasty of Evil - back cover

The Darth Bane series is the most enjoyable series of books I’ve read about the Star Wars universe. I give the series 5/5 stars on the whole. It follows Darth Bane, who started out as a miner in the first book Path of Destruction and surpassed all expectations and abilities to create what is called the Rule of Two: a rule intended to keep the Sith strong so that one day, as in the prequel trilogy of films, they would rise to fight the Jedi and take over the galaxy.


However, Darth Bane’s current apprentice, Zannah, has not challenged him yet and the tremors in Bane’s left hand attest to infirmity and aging muscles, which is fatal in a warrior who relies primarily on martial prowess. The future of the Sith is at stake and Bane seeks the secret to eternal life, and a new apprentice, as a backup plan. Zannah mistakenly thinks her master wants her to be patient in challenging him, but also wonders if it is time. She actively thinks about recruiting a new apprentice.

There are a few captivating additions to the series including a Iktotchi assassin who has visions of the future; healer Caleb’s daughter Serra who seeks justice for her murdered husband and father; a dark Jedi Set Harth whose reliance on escape and self-preservation make a contrast between him and the Sith.

There was a touch too much background information at times, reminding us of what happened in earlier books, but it did give the reader a well-rounded understanding of the thoughts of each character. We see less of Bane in Dynasty of Evil and the chapters about each character were shorter than I would have liked.

I must say the battles were well imagined and incredibly exciting. I reckon I was drooling when the Sith battled one another, anticipating how the battles would play out. With the background information sketched out previously, all the characters and situations came together in a clash that combined political reality with petty vengeance and brutal challenge/survival.

Path of Destruction is still the best book, but I wouldn’t hesitate to read another in this series, if it was possible. Or maybe I’ll have to reread Drew Karpyshyn’s Mass Effect series again or other works he has written. There is a visual quality to his writing that I like.

Star Wars: Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil on Amazon

Drew Karpyshyn’s Website

Electric Dreams – Episode 3: The Commuter – Review

The Commuter - train photoWritten by Jack Thorne

Directed by Tom Harper

Electric Dreams is a science fiction anthology of unrelated short stories based on the stories of renowned science fiction writer Philip K Dick, who is best known for his dystopian depictions of human life.

I’ll be reviewing some of these short stories to cover the themes that resonate in these inspiring episodes. Though an avid fan of Philip K Dick’s stories, I haven’t actually read some or all of the short stories that inspired the episodes in this adaptation.

‘BAFTA-winning actor Timothy Spall (Mr Turner) will star in “The Commuter.” He plays Ed Jacobson, an unassuming employee at a train station who is alarmed to discover that a number of daily commuters are taking the train to a town that shouldn’t exist.’

Ed Jacobson and his wife have a psychotic son. A therapist suggests that if he is not treated soon then he will get worse. Their son has gone now, and they both try to forget about him and live in a bubble of happiness that only includes the couple. It’s only later that we get a hint that Ed’s son, Sam, has been taken to Macon Heights, which is a mysterious place that according to travel routes doesn’t exist.

And that’s not all. Ed keeps seeing dark-haired Linda, an apparition, who first introduced him to Macon Heights. He wonders if she is real. Even his wife expresses the worry that she is more frightened of Ed’s insincere smile than she is of her psychotic son. It’s at this point we begin to wonder who the story is about; if not Sam, then maybe the person with the problem is actually Ed. After all, he is seeing people he isn’t sure are real.

Out of curiosity he visits Macon Heights, which is an ideal town where everybody appears happy. You’d expect to see something amiss sooner or later, but it’s not what you think. Ed keeps returning home and telling his wife not to worry about ‘what could have been’ regarding Sam’s notable absence from both Macon Heights and home.


Later we see that Macon Heights isn’t a real town, or even an illusion conjured by any other malevolent entity. It is a representation of Ed’s mind. He buried the truth about Sam’s past offences and wanted to live in an ideal marriage instead of a truthful one. At some point he realises why he got married in the first place: for love. Ed fights to get his son back from Macon heights (and the place he has put him in, in his mind).

Ed has to reconcile the parts of his mind that want a happy ideal reality and the actual reality where he makes the ‘right’ choices. Denying or removing Macon Heights, as he did with actual reality, may not solve the problem.

It is confusing at points whether the son he sees in his mind is Sam or whether it represents Ed’s inner child that he has been denying. To consolidate the fact that it is all in the dad’s head we see the son in the kitchen at the end, as if he had never been taken to Macon Heights or anywhere else and it makes sense, for though it is suggested Sam should go for treatment we never saw him admitted or taken to a particular place.

More information about Electric Dreams

Missed it? Watch it on Channel 4’s Catch Up


The Player of Games by Iain M Banks – 5/5 Stars

The Player of Games by Iain M Banks - front coverThe Player of Games by Iain M Banks - back cove

Takes substantial intelligence to get into the story, but once you’re in you don’t want to leave. Morat Gurgeh is The Player of Games. In the advanced civilisation known as the Culture he can adapt and play any game across the galaxies. He has lost before, but the thrill of not knowing whether he will win or not is partly what drives him. But he’s bored of requests to play, and seeks a challenge.



When Contact, a special division of the Culture, makes ‘contact’ with Gurgeh it is because they have something special planned for him. Across a breadth of space the Azad Empire is notorious for its cruelty and aggressive militaristic expansion. The empire’s board game, also called Azad, is what determines the hierarchical structure of their society. And Contact wants Gurgeh to learn and play Azad, but it’s not clear why to Gurgeh. When Gurgeh lands on a planet of the Azad Empire, he soon realises he is in way over his head. The Culture and his friends are forgotten about as he witnesses the barbarism of these humanoids. As a reader I wondered if Gurgeh would ever escape from the clutches of such evil, and if such evil would expand and eventually swallow the Culture, being as pervasive and authoritarian as it was.

This is a must-read!

Iain M Banks’ website

The Player of Games on Amazon

The Player of Games at Waterstones

Electric Dreams – Episode 2: Impossible Planet – Review

Impossible Planet - photo










(Written and directed by David Farr)

Electric Dreams is a science fiction anthology of unrelated short stories based on the stories of renowned science fiction writer Philip K Dick, who is best known for his dystopian depictions of human life.

I’ll be reviewing some of these short stories to cover the themes that resonate in these inspiring episodes. Though an avid fan of Philip K Dick’s stories, I haven’t actually read some or all of the short stories that inspired the episodes in this adaptation.

‘Life is a Dream’

Norton works for the budget space travel company Astral Dreams, showing (creating) glamorous spectacles in the form of colourful interstellar dust clouds for passengers, among other spectacles, but he needs to leave the company because his partner Barbara is fed up. Barbara wants to move to Primo Central, away from their remote outpost, and she has waited four years for Norton to show some promise. Now, Norton checks his vid-mail as she advises him to do in a call, and yet again Primo Central has rejected his application. The stakes are high: if he doesn’t get his act together she could leave him and he’ll feel it’s his fault.

When somebody repeatedly knocks on their office door, Norton has a feeling that something remarkable is going to happen and decides to open the door, against boss Andrews’ protests. It’s a 342-year-old woman! Not something you see every day. And she’s accompanied by her robot helper RB29, who translates because Irma Gordon, the old woman, is partly deaf. Irma Gordon is here to return to Earth, and she’s offering 2 kilo positive (five years’ salary) for their services; something Andrews is quick to exploit. Norton isn’t sure about it, until desperation with the situation between him and Barbara forces him to accept. What Norton doesn’t know is that this is Irma’s last trip; she has a heart condition and will die in a few months; and he and Andrews are both taking advantage.

The problem is that Earth ‘no longer exists’. It is extinct save for solar gases. Irma isn’t aware, or more accurately, doesn’t accept that the particular place she wants to visit can no longer exist. The specific place she wants to visit in Carolina before she dies is a pool in Elk River Falls where her grandmother told her she and her husband swam naked! Andrews searches for a practical solution and finds a similar planet, though duller and less beautiful than Earth in the belief that it can be made to look like Earth. Andrews is morally corrupt on a daily basis, watching pornographic aliens when he’s supposed to be working so he’s not going to worry about Irma Gordon being told the truth when 2 kilo positive is involved, and Andrews reminds us later this is their job: to create happiness. Of course, Norton has reservations about how Andrews is handling the journey; it’s not usual for Andrews to be present on the ship itself. RB29 is not to be hoodwinked and engages them in questioning and undertakes a bit of liberal investigation.

However, Irma Gordon is not just a very old lady; she has a sparkle in her eyes and deduces more than she should. Like the translator she uses to read what is said to her, she picks up some sentences more than others, which may be more meaningful. It’s this greater meaning behind what she reads, or sometimes hears, that makes us wonder if she knows much more than Norton and Andrews about life and the universe. We forget that she doesn’t actually need RB29 to translate, and he is only there to look after her.

There is a connection between Irma Gordon and Norton, which maybe could have been represented better, for Norton’s dreams didn’t have a noticeable effect on his day apart from when he came into contact with Irma. Not only does Irma have a benevolent influence on him but they both desire a return to nature; life as it is instead of the prevalent ‘pre-digested’ happiness such as his partner Barbara’s wish for a perfect life and his own job creating visual spectacles in space and making people think their dreams have come true. Like Irma Gordon we want to believe that not everything is accounted for in the universe and that some mystery remains, to excite us and inspire us. This would be especially important for a very old woman, but no less so for many of us I believe.

In times that are rapidly heading towards greater knowledge of science, technology, and space, is it true that a part of us longs for that hidden mystery that cannot be understood, and can only be embraced?

More information about Electric Dreams

Missed it? Watch it on Channel 4’s Catch Up 

The Martian by Andy Weir – 3/5 Stars

The Martian by Andy Weir - front cover











For those unfamiliar, the book is about an astronaut (Mark Watney) stranded on Mars without communication or backup from Earth/NASA. Mark must grow his own potatoes and put his practical skills to use in a struggle for his own survival, but the odds are against him because the next Mars probe won’t arrive for a long time and he may run out of food, oxygen, or water before then. Any of a hundred different things could go wrong, from the habitation to the rovers.

The Martian by Andy Weir - back cover

The Martian used retrospective first-person tense to good effect, relating Mark’s experience in a series of diaries listed as ‘sols’. The tense captured Mark’s hilarious take on his situation, and made for engaging reading.

My main criticism is the overuse of scientific terms and mathematical calculations, which was a bit overwhelming at times because not all of the calculations made sense to me, even if it was supposedly authentic.

Still, there were enough engaging chapters, and it was a good book overall.

The Martian by Andy Weir on Amazon

Andy Weir’s Website

Electric Dreams – Episode 1: The Hoodmaker – Review

The Hoodmaker - photo








Electric Dreams is a science fiction anthology of unrelated short stories based on the stories of renowned science fiction writer Philip K Dick, who is best known for his dystopian depictions of human life. 

I’ll be reviewing some of these short stories to cover the themes that resonate in these inspiring episodes. Though an avid fan of Philip K Dick’s stories, I haven’t actually read some or all of the short stories that inspired the episodes in this adaptation.

The Hoodmaker aired on Sunday 17th September on Channel 4.

Episode 1: The Hoodmaker

(Adapted by Matthew Graham.)

When the episode starts during a protest against the use of telepaths, or ‘teeps’, we see Clearance, the authority/police, making use of the skills of female teep, Honor. Agent Ross is standing close guiding Honor and benefitting from her reads of the protestors. Once the protestors become aware that they are being read, the awareness of which is a remarkable skill itself, they launch themselves against the assembled agents, and the riot police step in to clear the way. In the tumult, a lone protestor with their face hidden by a metallic mask as part of a hooded robe pushes their way forward and throws a fire-bomb. The assailant is then chased through streets by Agent Ross, and captured. After interrogation of the assailant, it becomes clear somebody – the Hoodmaker – is distributing hoods and arming ordinary human beings to take up the fight against the teeps.

After the Anti Immunity Bill, teeps are used to detect threats, however, it is clear there is still much resentment about the bill among ordinary people and police. ‘Teeps’ is used in a derogatory way; they are seen as a threat to the human race. It’s the argument that they could be the next stage in evolution and if they are not suppressed then they could take over. As a result, there are trust issues between the teeps and people, and with Honor and the authorities. Honor grew up with her kind, but does that automatically mean she should side with them? This question becomes more important as we see a hint of attraction, triggered by her proximity with Agent Ross. A few times, she tells him she thinks he is special – maybe she doesn’t want to read him.

The theme that most intrigued me was ‘trust’. Many people, and certainly the guilty, do not want their minds open to be read by teeps. There is even propaganda in the station that says ‘Keep an Open Mind: Telepathy’, as if to say ‘show you have nothing to hide’ and ‘be a friendly human being’. I’m sure many in our society can understand the fears that our mental privacy would be intruded by teeps, to be used by law enforcement agencies or teeps, but perhaps not for our benefit directly. However, we are also shown a glimpse of a teep being taken advantage of by being privy to someone’s horrible thoughts. In the course of the first scene, some people have thoughts that are considered a direct danger to society, after all it was the hooded person who threw the fire-bomb, whereas most people’s thoughts, though emotionally complex, were not dangerous to anybody. Could it be that if we opened ourselves to teeps and formed trust and friendship with them as individuals then society could be reunified, its wounds healed? Close proximity with a teep can often be damning for a person who wants to keep their thoughts to themselves, and groups of teeps are downright terrifying.

On the other hand, there is the ‘hood’ itself, which protects people’s minds from being read. People are still capable of manufacturing tools to give them then edge, even in the tension between them and teeps, and since people outnumber the teeps, who is really the dangerous group? The mass fear of teeps extends not just to their psychic ability, but as is seen later, to Honor’s use of it to access information across distances and jump to investigative conclusions. Human brains cannot do that without the internet – and we can control the internet. People see the teeps as being able to read minds, use higher intelligence, and replace them at work. Seeing the co-operation between Agent Ross and Honor, it seems irrational to me to only focus on the fear that all teeps are going to automatically replace people and there isn’t a lot of evidence of teeps abusing their powers before discrimination and violence.

What are your thoughts about the episode and the questions posed?

More information about Electric Dreams

Missed it? Watch it on Channel 4’s Catch Up 

Gathering Ashes by Michael Shean – 5/5 Stars

Gathering Ashes by Michael Shean

‘Endless carefree consumption, total comfort, all you can eat, and only at the low, low cost of your human soul and who believed in that anymore.’

In book three of Michael Shean’s dark cyberpunk series, he explores the paths we can take as humanity: to stick with the militaristic war-like foible of the human race or to use the superior technology of the alien Yathi to humanity’s advantage and risk losing a small part of ourselves.

Thomas Walken’s worst fears are realised when he wakes up as one of the Yathi. He doesn’t know his true purpose or what the Mother of Systems has planned for him. Walken must evolve, from a policeman to a spy operative, listening to external intelligence to make considered choices in the greater scheme of things. His new body has the potential to put him on an even keel with his alien enemies, if only he knew how to unlock his capabilities. ‘The magnetic fields around his hands, his arms, the elements that would flash-heat the trapped air into white-hot plasma. His alloy-laced bones, his diamond heart. The poreless white skin beneath his sensory absorptive coating, Nemea invulnerability rendered from flesh impregnated with nanomachines.’

The author keeps the best parts of character Bobbi’s point of view from Redeye (book two)  and combines it with Walken’s ego: ‘I’m hoping to kick ass and save the day no matter what you do to me’. Bobbi is much stronger and confident in Gathering Ashes, bringing together a group of hackers and using reclaimed Yathi as assassins. Though I was more excited with Walken’s ‘no shits given’ exchanges with enemies, it was Bobbi’s personality and character that felt more real. The way she thought, acted, and interacted bore uncanny resemblance to somebody who might have lived in the real world.

Criticism: I couldn’t easily fault Gathering Ashes. The quotations marks were presented inconsistently. Author should maybe cut out some similes, which stuck out in the text next to the already excellent pace and tone of the writing. Ch.12 was exceptionally long. When did Tom see Scalli, did I miss that part? There is a gap in my memory there. Regarding the ‘mysterious horseshit’ perpetrated by god-like AI Cagliostro, I wanted more answers than conjecture to explain who he is and whether he really can be trusted. It’s clear more will be answered in the next book, but some things could have been wrapped up better.

The author has adapted his writing, adding brief backstories, more considered settings, and even crossed into the spy genre with infiltration missions, all of which were well balanced, at the correct length and written with superb quality. The story contained some of the most exciting action I’ve read in science fiction with the right level of urgency, a firm grip of technology, and an understanding of cause and effect. I liked the fact that Gathering Ashes was not a rushed third book, and the author took his time to reacquaint the reader with the setting and characters. The flow was perfect. What else can I say except that Gathering Ashes is a well-crafted sequel that I hugely enjoyed? Each book continues to get better.

Michael Shean’s website

Ryonna’s Wrath by Christian Kallias – 4/5 Stars

Ryonna's Wrath (Trials) by Christian Kallias
‘Ryonna’s Wrath’ (not ‘trials’) is the new name of this novella, as far as I know.

Fundamentally, Ryonna’s Wrath is about Droxian female alien Ryonna’s attempt to break into the maximum security prison Hellstar to save her son Jax, who we can assume has been wrongly imprisoned. However, the story also has a few parallel plots running, where Ryonna will learn about the circumstances that led to the ruination of her family. Along the way, she meets a friend called Alix, a friendly, helpful, and indispensable part of her team. Ryonna’s friendship with Alix is troubled by a vision she had of his death at her hands – visions she sees that are due to her unique ability of foresight that activates when she becomes acquainted with somebody.

It was engrossing reading about the pickles Ryonna got herself in and seeing how she would be able to get out of them. The theme of torture repeated a few times, but was written about in different ways so it didn’t bore. The technologies were colourful and simple to understand, and for this reason it made the action scenes flow seamlessly. More than one action scene reminded me of the video game Metal Gear Solid, which was well adapted.

The dialogue was always engaging, and sometimes a bit of personality leaked through: ‘Now we’re square puke wise.’

Criticism: the ‘voice’ of the story, while a signature style of the author’s, did not vary much between characters leaving the reader with people that sounded the same when they spoke, lending confusion as if the story was a narration; though an enjoyable one.

There could have been more depth to the story. Some of the prose was a bit simplistic and one-dimensional, perhaps because it was from Ryonna’s point of view and because all she wanted was revenge or justice. And crucially, you didn’t get to know how Ryonna breaks her son out of Hellstar, arguably the main point of the story. I don’t think the author left it to the reader’s imagination. Likely, this will be covered later on in his novel series, but throughout I thought I was going to get some follow-up in this novella as to all the plans Ryonna made. As a result of the lack of depth, I didn’t feel justified giving it the full 5 stars, but it was a fine point to make.

Some of the scenes were too similar to Metal Gear Solid, in that I could make a direct connection between characters of the video game moving, fighting, or manipulating others; drop to one knee, shattered glass, battling a mech with a lot of jumping around, and a main character’s fate. Nonetheless, it was engaging and some ideas were new, or new enough, like the light-blades.

Ryonna’s Wrath is like a Star Wars novel, but without the political and techno babble, and fused with fantasy instead. Aside from any preconceptions I might have had about the novella, I found the writing to be exciting, fast-paced, and intriguing. It brings forward the visual technology and the movement of action scenes with clarity. I liked seeing Ryonna in action, and some of her battle scenes and struggles were borderline epic. I did prefer his novel Earth: Last Sanctuary, but I would read from this author again. Ryonna’s Wrath is a quick nugget of thrills and excitement, so if you’re looking for a short space opera read then this should quite easily satisfy your need.

Christian Kallias’ website