Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂
As many of you probably know, I read widely – mostly Fantasy, but I love a good SF tale, too; so when Steve Wheeler arranged copies of his novels for me (all the way from New Zealand, I might add!), I was looking forward to some great SF action – and I’m happy to report that Steve’s ‘BURNT ICE’ didn’t disappoint me.
The first novel in Steve’s ‘A FURY OF ACES’ series, the tale centres on a crew of soldier-engineers who are sent to investigate a planet – an act which quickly leads to battles in the sea, air, underwater, and in space, as well as forcing the squad to begin questioning their leaders and masters.
The first thing that impressed me about the novel was its scope – just reading the blurb put me in mind of the kind of Space Opera that Peter F Hamilton writes, and though I knew not to expect something similar, I was damned surprised but just how detailed the universe that Steve created is.
Earth has been left behind (a major catastrophe struck the planet, forcing humanity to leave behind the homeworld), and now inhabit what is called the Sphere of Humanity – a region of space encompassing hundreds (if not thousands) of planets linked by wormhole-travel. The Sphere is governed by the Administration, but they have their own control-struggle going on with the Games Board, a faction that runs every conflict and war for entertainment value and ratings. It’s unlike anything I’ve encountered in SF before, and Steve does an awesome job exploring the factions and their policies, motives and technology.
A word of warning, though – Steve doesn’t spoonfeed the reader. You may find yourself a bit lost in the beginning, as there are many names and acronyms you’ll read that you won’t immediately understand, but if you’re patient you’ll experience how everything builds into a coherent and understandable picture, and you’ll see just how many threads and ideas Steve packed into this novel.
Character-wise, there are plenty of stand-outs, with a slight leaning toward one character, Marko, but Steve gives everyone their time in the spotlight. Each member of the crew has specific abilities that not only set them apart but also bring them together in innovative ways, especially when they need to do something or build something. There’s a real sense of camaraderie among the crew, though there are the odd disagreements.
One aspect of the novel that readers might find strange is how Steve writes dialogue – it’s not something I’m used to, but in this case it worked well for me, and also went a long way to showing how each character thinks and experiences a situation.
The world-building of this novel is pretty damned cool, and I’m sure book one hasn’t yet scratched the surface of the universe Steve has built – you find out how wormholes are created, what goes into the making of weapons and armour, how long it takes to travel into orbit and then back down again, just how to deal with not being able to use wormholes to travel vast interstellar distances… I’m no expert, but it seems clear to me that Steve put a hell of a lot of thought into this book, looking at things from many angles to make sure he had covered all his bases and knew what he was talking about. Granted, this is SF and Space Opera, so we’re dealing with technologies that don’t exist (yet), but you get my meaning. 🙂
The battles in the book (and there are plenty) are not only excellent but interesting, too, as Marko’s crew are drawn into conflicts that test their knowledge as well as their abilities to react and work as a team. And the relationships between the crew grow and change throughout the book – there aren’t any static characters here, another aspect of the novel that keeps things interesting.
Taken all together, I really enjoyed this book – it’s the kind of Space Opera (layered with Military SF) that is fun, engaging, interesting and intelligent, with great characters, excellent world-building and cool action. All SF-readers should be reading this – I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it!
9 / 10
To order your copies of ‘BURNT ICE’ click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa. And do check out Steve’s Facebook Page, ‘A Fury of Aces’ – plenty extra info there and many truly excellent models that Steve has built, showcasing specific ships and hardware from the series. In fact, check out this post I did for a taster of what you can expect. 🙂