Review: Avengers of the Moon

9780765382184Title: Avengers of the Moon (2017)
Author: Allen Steele
Pages: 304

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Allen Steele’s Arkwright popped up on many “Best of” lists in 2016 and I gave it shot, but it was not to my liking. Steele’s writing style was tough to engage with. Luckily, I found Avengers of the Moon to be much more palatable. I was coming in blind to Steele’s previous work as well as the source material for which this novel is based — Captain Future, a 1940s pulp sci-fi hero made famous by Edmond Hamilton.

Captain Future is an orphaned renegade who seeks revenge for the death of his parents along with his trusty android sidekick, a disembodied brain, and a hulking robot. It is a fun group, but there’s not a great deal of nuance to these characters. I understand that Steele was operating within the confines of a previously established cast, so I do think he does well with what he’s given.

I very much enjoyed the classic sci-fi vibe of this world — plasma guns, rocket ships, and robot companions abound. In many ways it feels like a B-movie in book form, and as such, the story doesn’t take many creative risks. Throw in an over-the-top mustache-twirling villain and you have the makings of fun, but otherwise ephemeral story.  

★★½ out of 5

Review: City of Miracles

city-of-miraclesTitle: City of Miracles (2017)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Pages: 448
The Divine Cities #3 (Series Tracker)
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

In this final volume of Robert Jackson Bennett’s brilliantly inventive Divine Cities trilogy, the focus shifts to Sigrud je Harkvaldsson — for my money, one of the best characters in the series. Seeing him get the spotlight was a welcome sight, but I didn’t end up enjoying his POV as much as Shara’s and Mulaghesh’s before him. He may be better served as a supporting character being peppered-in sparingly rather than having full star-status, but as the plot unfolds you come to realize that he was the necessary choice for this role. While he struggles to carry parts of the novel, Bennett builds up a strong supporting cast around him that mostly negates this deficiency.

Bennett’s writing is as strong as ever here, as the novel sets off with a propulsive pace. I’ll set the scene — against the backdrop of a gloomy metropolis, a hulking, lone-wolf vigilante, stealthily picks off baddies one by one in the dark, fueled by the deaths of those he loved. He’s basically Batman for the first part of the novel and I loved it. Despite a middle portion that could have been tightened up as my interest started to wane, Bennett ratchets everything back up for the big heart-pounding finale that each of his books have done so well.

Overall, this was a worthy addition to the Divine Cities series, but not my favorite. That said, Robert Jackson Bennett nailed this trilogy and did a wonderful job with the interplay of gods & mortals, modernity & traditional fantasy worlds, and great characters & an imaginative story. I look forward to seeing what he puts out next.

★★★¾ out of 5