By Dan Abnett

Rating: 3 stars

Lex Falk is a cynical, world-weary journalist. He’s got a shelf full of Pulitzers, has been everywhere and seen everything. His latest assignment is to find out what the military are so concerned to keep secret on colony world Eighty Six (turns out it can take some time for worlds to decide on a name for themselves). Although initially uninterested, he is annoyed enough when the military liaison people try to play him for a fool to get more involved. And you can’t get much more deeply involved than covertly hitching a ride in the skull of a friendly soldier. When it all goes horribly wrong, Falk finds himself in the middle of something bigger than he could have dreamed. Now he just needs to keep himself, and his host, alive long enough for him to report it.

I acquired this book because it was part of the free goodie bag at Eastercon 2012, earlier this month. I picked it up not expecting a huge amount from it, but ended up pretty much enjoying it. Although Falk is initially dislikeable, his armour of worn cynicism making it difficult to warm to him, as the book progresses, and after he becomes embedded with his host, Nestor Bloom, I found myself warming to him more.

The book is most certainly part of the subgenre ‘military SF’, with loving descriptions of hardware and different types of weaponry (hardware porn is an appropriate term), and people die in fairly gruesome ways. But beyond that, there is a core mystery that keeps Falk and the reader going throughout the book, always striving for the final clue that will fill in the blanks.

While I found some of the language in the book annoying (for example, when asked how they are, characters will invariably reply that they’re “wealthy”), I found the explanation for using “freekĀ®” as a swearword clever and sort of funny. Likewise, the fact that the “Central Bloc” is the hinted enemy throughout seemed incongruous given that the book was only released in 2011, although there’s a throwaway comment near the end that suggests an explanation for this.

An enjoyable enough way to while away a few hours, then, as long as you don’t mind lots of descriptions of military hardware.

Book details

ISBN: 9780857660909
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Year of publication: 2010

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