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Ruabon (SF) - Karl Drinkwater ****

Karl Drinkwater has been busy adding novellas to his Lost Solace series to fill in different aspects of the story. This contribution works well - it has all the elements that make it a useful addition. Firstly, it ties strongly into the main series novels in a very clever way. Secondly, it's pretty well all action. There can be a danger with backstory-type novellas that they meander rather than carry a narrative thrust, but that's not the case here. And finally, there's a strong thread of AI, which is so central to the Lost Solace series.

The central character here, Ruabon, is a cadet in a system relatively recently absorbed into the overarching society that features in this series. In a classic SF move (see, for example, the recent novel Artifact Space, where a midshipman briefly has to take charge of a massive starship), the cadet ends up calling the shots when things get really difficult.

There are some clever twists in Ruabon which would be too much of a spoiler to give away, making it an engaging experience. Although technically these novellas work as standalone stories, it would be very sensible to read at least one of the main novels before getting onto this piece of writing.

I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the ending, which seemed a little rushed - but it was still an excellent addition to Drinkwater's well-paced world building.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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