Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ninth City Burning - J. Patrick Black

Ninth City Burning
J. Patrick Black

Science Fiction/Military

Five hundred years ago, an alien race came to Earth.  Because they arrive on a February 14th, we call them Valentines.  We don’t know what they call themselves, because they didn’t come to talk.  They announced their arrival by blowing major cities off the face of the planet in seconds.  They brought death and destruction and a new kind of weapon, powered by something called ‘thelemity.’  Humans had never heard of this power before, but quickly learned to use it.  Our technology leaped forward, and we were able to take the fight to the Valentines.

After the destruction of so many of Earth’s cities, and the attendant death toll, society had to re-order itself.  There are several large Cities around the globe, each centered around the war effort and under the rule of the military force.  Outside the Cities are settlements that exist to supply food, goods, services, and draftees to the Cities.  Further out, in the wilderness, there are groups of people who know nothing of the war, never enter Cities, and only wish to live free.  In the Cities, kids train for the military from the time they enter school.

Several centuries of constant fighting seem to have brought this war to a stalemate, with no end in sight.  Both sides have been using largely the same tactics since the war began.  There are a few tacticians, though, who believe they detect a change in the way the Valentines are acting and reacting.  These few believe that something big, something different may happen in the very near future.  Something that could end the war and the human race.

This debut novel works well on so many different levels.  The world-building is solid and absolutely realistic.  The different levels of society make sense against a background of centuries of war.  If you’re a scifi fan, there’s plenty to love here.  The concept of thelemity and how it works is fascinating.  The way space travel works here, including time moving at a different rate on Earth and at the Front.  For techies and gearheads, the military hardware is amazing. 

Aside from all of that, this is a very character-driven story.  Much of the first section of the book is devoted to introducing a diverse and far-flung cast of characters.  Jax lives in Ninth City and can use thelemity.  He’s only twelve, but his ability leaves him respected but isolated.  Naomi is from the wilderness and a tight-knit family.  Her ability throws her into an entirely new life, fighting a war that she never knew existed.  And there are the “kiddos” from the settlement who are unlucky enough to get caught up in the most recent draft, changing all of their lives.  Each one is an individual with hopes and dreams and fears.  Watching these people move through events large and small makes this a very satisfying read.  I hope to see much more from this talented author.

Rating: 9
September 2016

ISBN# 978-1-101-99144-2 (hardcover)


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