Monday, April 24, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Review: Ninth City Burning by J Patrick Black

Long Review after the Jump:

J Patrick Black's Ninth City Burning is a book that apparently is meant to begin a new SciFi series.  It's also, alas, a book that badly needed more editting.  This is a story that follows so many characters (there are seven point of view characters) who are often doing completely different things such that you get the clear feeling the book isn't really sure what it wants to be.  Does it want to be like Ender's Game (at Battle School)?  Does it want to be Gundam?  Does it want to be Harry Potter?  In a way, the book wants to be all of these things at once and the book's characters and plot suffer as a result of it.

The Plot in general is this:  At some point in our on Valentine's day, an army of alien invaders from a parallel world struck earth, causing mass destruction worldwide. These invaders, known as "Valentines" or "Romeo," used a previously unknown energy force - known as thelemity - that doesn't follow normal physical laws to power their attacks. The force was eventually beaten back, at great cost, when humans learned to also wield this power, and a military force was created to wage war across parallel realms against the foe.  Meanwhile the remaining civilians are used for recruits and support for the war effort, though they are not told of the true nature of what they are fighting.

The story follows seven characters who become caught up in the fight against the Valentines:
Jax: A 12 year old who has the power to generate thelemity, the force needed to contineut he war effort.
Naomi: Another 12 year old whose people are nomads on the Earth, but who gets drawn into the war when the military discovers she too can generate thelemity.
Torro: One of the civilians who is forcibly recruited into the war as a member of the infantry along with some of his friends.
Rae: Naomi's sister, who can manipulate thelemity generated by others and can animate an experimental mecha unit
Kizabel: A scientist who builds the aforementioned mecha and tries to come up with new ways to win the war effort.
Vinneas: A young officer who discovers the enemy is changing its tactics and along with Kizzy tries to save the whole army;
Imway: A mecha pilot who used to be friends with Vinneas and Kizzy who's kind of standoffish.

We bounce around these 7 POVs, but some of them drop off for long periods of time.  This prevents us from really getting to know these characters that well, and well, several of these characters just ARENT important - particularly Torro and Imway who add basically nothing to the overall plot.
The plot is generally fine and servicable, so it's not a BAD book, but it's hard to get attached to any of the characters or this world when we are constantly shifting around to other characters doing totally different things, and despite the insane amount of world building (we don't learn the actual setting's nature till 100 pages in), some plot elements just seem to come from nowhere.  For example, Rae and Vinneas have one interaction early, then dont see each other for another 40% of the book, and then the book wants to act like there's romantic tension between them.

Maybe the sequel to this book (which I don't think has been announced) will find better focus - Black's writing shows some promise and thare are some pretty fun elements here - the experimental mecha is named SNUGGLES for example, which is amazing - but this book is largely some fun moments in want of a coherent whole.  Plenty of better books out there for your time.

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