Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

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Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: Connolly writes great crime novels with incredible pace and decent characterisation. He and Jennifer Ridyard have now written a science fiction novel exactly the same. The YA classification is irrelevant - this is for science fiction adults, younger and older.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472209634

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I don't know an awful lot about YA science fiction. Indeed, my experience with it before now has been limited to I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, which I didn't rate terribly highly. Conquest, however, promised something a little different, as it was co-written by the author of a book I did enjoy, alongside his partner Jennifer Ridyard.

The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a vaguely humanoid race far in advance of humankind, who were able to conquer the planet gently by proving how futile it would be to resist. They are keen to ensure the human race remains compliant, but are mostly keen to avoid bloodshed. Humankind, however, is not a race to take conquest lying down. There is a very active resistance, particularly in Scotland, where the Scots come out of the Highlands to strike on the Illyri garrisons and power bases in cities like Edinburgh.

There is also a power struggle within the Illyri themselves. They have a Military who control the Earth and the Corps, politicians and diplomats who would like to. When a major bomb goes off in Edinburgh and then a senior Corps figure arrives on Earth with his mysterious wife, it appears that things aren't quite as Governor Andrus thought, especially when it becomes apparent that his teenage daughter Syl has had dealings with members of the Resistance as a result of the explosion, despite technically not being allowed out in the city.

Somehow, Connolly and Ridyard have combined an action thriller, a crime novel and a political thriller all in one go. The ages of the main characters may place the book in the YA section, but the quality of the ideas and the writing mean it can be enjoyed by adults as well and this adult certainly enjoyed it. There are so many plots and sub-plots and so many different factions that the story is never short of something going on and there are plot twists that the reader doesn't see coming, particularly one at the end that looks to send the series off in a whole new direction that didn't seem likely only several pages previously.

In using humanoid invaders, Connolly and Ridyard avoid the issue of having the reader sympathise with them and certainly by the end I realised I wasn't focussing on the Illyri as a separate race, but as characters like the humans. Their names may be a little different, and some of their methods certainly are, but by the end I was sympathising with Governor Andrus, who seemed to be suffering from the behaviour of everyone else; The Corps, the Resistance and his own daughter. It had ceased to matter than he was in charge of an invading alien force, because I'd completely forgotten that's what he was – he was just a fairly decent chap who was having the mother of all bad times.

That's how engaging the story is as a story. Connolly's writing has shown both the traits of action and great characters before, so this didn't come as a surprise. But what I also liked was that Connolly and Ridyard don't just spring things on the reader. In many science fiction books, you can find an element of deus ex machina, where strange things happen just because. That's not the case here. The gentle invasion is covered well as an introduction and events have explanations and consequences, for all races. There will always be some stretching of the imagination required in a science fiction novel, but this one doesn't stretch until it snaps.

Very early on, I had ceased to pay any attention to the YA classification of this novel. That may be something useful for publishers and marketing departments to hang their hats on, but it won't matter one bit to the reader. In the past, Connolly has written novels with excellent characters, loads of action and incredibly readable prose. Here, Connolly and Ridyard have done exactly the same, just with a science fiction backdrop. If you enjoy exciting reads, regardless of your age, you'll enjoy this one. It's good enough to defy classification and just has to go down as a great science fiction novel.

For equally great writing and story, but in the straight thriller genre, The Reapers, and more or less anything he's written, are great reading.

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