Skip to main content

Stormblood (SF) - Jeremy Szal ****

Practically all the action-based SF books I've read in the last few years have had female protagonists, so it seemed almost odd to find Stormblood taking us into the world of Vakov Fukasawa, a male former soldier, bio-enhanced using 'stormtech', an addictive substance that gives the user added strength, self-healing and courage in return for becoming more aggressive - sometimes uncontrollably so. However, it didn't take long to get swept up in Jeremy Szal's fast-moving story.

Part of the development in the story is finding out more about what stormtech actually is (a revelation that sets us up nicely for a sequel - it's not really a spoiler to say it's alien DNA, as it's on the book's cover), but a lot simply involves Fukasawa taking on his demons, fighting to stay alive in the face of an increasingly imposing set of enemies, and trying to extricate his brother from a drug-smuggling ring that proves to be far more than it first seems. Initially, Fukasawa is bitter and anti-establishment, but comes round to a grudging respect for the forces of law and order, notably in the form of the love interest, Katherine Kowalski, the officer put in charge of him.

Szal handles well the complexities of stormtech and produces a rich, layered world in the form of a three-dimensional city state that occupies a hollowed-out asteroid. There are a number of alien races, though mostly Star Trek-like in being little more than variants on exaggerated human types. The adventure was engaging and page turning, though it did suffer from approach that Alistair Maclean so loved of putting the hero through extensive physical abuse that no one would survive, only to have them come out stronger in the end.

If we're being picky, it's overlong - there a several backstory chapters that could simply be dropped without making any difference to the storyline. There's a rather unbelievable 'super hacker' friend of Fukasawa's who seems to be able to single-handedly break any IT security in seconds -  it doesn't say much for the antivirus companies of this future world. Oh, and Fukasawa's internal monologues go on far to long as he agonises over his addictive state and the effect that stormtech is having on him. However, these small moans don't take away from the very effective action, some interesting technology ideas and a strong, sweeping storyline that promises more to come.

An effective debut from Jeremy Szal.


Paperback:    
Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Patricia Fara - Four Way Interview

Patricia Fara lectures in the history of science at Cambridge University, where she is a Fellow of Clare College. She was the President of the British Society for the History of Science (2016-18) and her prize-winning book, Science: A Four Thousand Year History (OUP, 2009), has been translated into nine languages. An experienced public lecturer, Patricia Fara appears regularly in TV documentaries and radio programmes. She also contributes articles and reviews to many popular magazines and journals, including History Today, BBC History, New Scientist, Nature and the Times Literary SupplementHer new book is Erasmus Darwin.

Why history of science?
I read physics at university, but half-way through the course I realised that had been a big mistake. Although I relished the intellectual challenge, I was bored by the long hours spent lining up recalcitrant instruments in dusty laboratories. Why was nobody encouraging us to think about the big questions – What is gravity? Does quantum mechani…

The Idea of the Brain: Matthew Cobb *****

Matthew Cobb is one of those people that you can’t help but admire but also secretly hate just a little bit for being so awesome. He is professor for zoology at the University of Manchester with a sizable teaching load that he apparently masters with consummate skill. He’s a scientific researcher, who researches the sense of smell of fruit fly maggots; I kid you not!  He’s also an attentive and loving family father but he still finds time and energy to write brilliant history of science books, three to date. His first, The Egg and Sperm Race, describes the search for the secret of human reproduction in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is one of my favourite history of science books, on the period. His second, Life’s Greatest Secret is a monster, both in scope and detail, description of the hunt to decipher the structure and function of DNA that along the way demolishes a whole boatload of modern history of science myths. The most recent, and the subject of this review, is

The Search for Life on Mars - Elizabeth Howell and Nicholas Booth ***

From the book’s enticing subtitle, ‘The Greatest Scientific Detective Story of All Time’, I was expecting something rather different. I thought the authors would kick off by introducing the suspects (the various forms life might take on Mars, either now or in the past) and the kind of telltale traces they might leave, followed by a chronological account of the detectives (i.e. scientists) searching for those traces, ruling out certain suspects and focusing on others, turning up unexpected new clues, and so on. But the book is nothing like that. Continuing with the fiction analogy, this isn’t a novel so much as a collection of short stories – eleven self-contained chapters, each with its own set of protagonists, suspects and clues.

Some of the chapters work better than others. I found the first three – which despite their early placement cover NASA’s most recent Mars missions – the most irritating. For one thing, they unfold in a way that’s at odds with the cerebral ‘detective story’ na…