Book review of Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell


EmbersWarThis review of Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell was written in 2018 for the British Science Fiction Association‘s magazine, Vector.

Titan Books, 2018, Paperback, 416pp, £7.99, ISBN 9781785655197


(With apologies to lovers of Excession).

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

They’re doing it again – that crazy “Earth” place is comparing another writer to Iain M. Banks. The GCU No, Please, I Insist has been monitoring developments and spotted this Gareth L. Powell fellow and his new book, Embers of War. They say it’s very Banks.

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

You mean Agent Banks? The one Special Circumstances sent to prepare the Earthies for contact?

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

Yes. Unless we have another agent there?

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

Hmm. I thought Banks was extracted, given a pat on the back for going above and beyond, and then retired somewhere more…Cultured?

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

He was, but we’re still monitoring them, still hoping for a miracle. It seems Banks may have made more of an impression than we thought. Some of the work this Earthie Powell has created is really rather good.

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

Powell definitely is one of them, is he?

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

Yes. That strange shouty orange one aside, some of them are quite smart. For meat, anyway.

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

You should read this new story of his: it’s all about a complex community of space-going races, which, of course, includes the – ahem – Earthies. In the book there’s been another one of those horrible big space wars they seem to enjoy reading about so much. This one’s slightly different, however, because it ended after a planet-wide genocide, which was deemed a bit much even by their savage standards. I’ll send you a copy. Here.

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

Thanks. Yes, I see what you mean. An interesting and entertaining read. For meat.

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

I wish you’d stop saying that. Did you not enjoy the story? What about the warship responsible for the genocide, Battle Dog, that was decommissioned and had chosen to work as a rescue ship? Don’t you think it sounds like an early Culture vessel?

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

Very early, if you ask me. It follows “orders” from the meat!

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

Yes, but the point is that these veterans, including the Battle Dog are working together to atone and make things better. And what about their latest mission to a place called The Gallery? It’s a system some vanished super race has carved an entire planetary system into a work of art? That’s classic Agent Banks stuff.

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

Not that advanced, they’re still using planets.

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

But these planets are almost like Involucra Shellworlds – the ones Agent Banks revealed in Matter. And they’ve not just reshaped planets, they’ve reshaped an entire system; rather nicely, too. I’m not sure we could do very much better.

Did you not like the people in the story? They’re all a bit of a mess with their guilt and regret and failure, but I appreciated their attempts to atone and be better. They’ve got spirit and bravado, but carefully leavened with world-weary sadness; they’re trying their best, surely you have to admire that?

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

Yes, yes, all right, having just reread it, I agree. This is what the Earthies call “space opera”, isn’t it? A background of Fun Space – sorry, I mean fiction – that allows the writer to tell a real story. The physics might be a mess, but I like it.

GSV Common Tongue to GCU Filibustering With Megatons

Should we bring Powell in? He’d make a great understudy for Agent Banks.

GCU Filibustering With Megatons to GSV Common Tongue

No, leave Powell where he is for now, but keep an eye on him. He’s got real potential…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s