Nemesis by Alex Lamb

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Nemesis by Alex Lamb

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: A grand story of alien threat against the diaspora of the human race, unfortunately gets bogged down in the author's need to try to make us understand the scientific postulations. All in all, a lighter touch would have served the story and the characters far better.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 560 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473206113

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I'm not a great lover of back-cover blurb, but every now and again it tells you everything you need to know…if you read between the lines. Hugely promising said SFX. Hits the ground running said the Guardian. I can't disagree with either of those two statements. Unfortunately for this particular reader, it ran very quickly into a swamp of dense pseudo-scientific-explicatory-strangle-weed. And didn't live up to the promise.

Let's take a step back: Sci-fi isn't everyone's cup of hot-water-steeped-leaves. If you read in the genre you expect not to understand bits of it. Unless you're an actual scientist, I guess, in which case you'll be even more annoyed by this one than I was or conversely you will understand every word of it and tell me to shut up.

I'm not a scientist. Of all the sciences the one I'm most baffled by is physics.

I'm not religious, but I am spiritual and I believe lots of stuff can survive our immediate physical manifestation. Life is only true for a given value of 'life' kind of thing.

I read a reasonable amount of Sci-fi – across the broad range of that definition from things that are (or were when written) simple extrapolations of known science into the near future, through to the more extreme propositions, the far-future fantasies and all the rest. I love a space-battle as much as the next man. (My next man is a gamer, he does that stuff. I don't. Though I will admit to being something of a Trekkie up to a point.)

If you're already bored by this review, the book is not for you. Nemesis has a great story at its core, but is marred by what feels like (to me) trying to be far too clever about it. It doesn't seem to have decided to be a grand space adventure, or a treatise on where humanity might be headed, or a postulation of what science might become.

If Lamb had just dropped the last one and worried far less about justifying 'the science bit' it would have worked much better.

Somewhere in the far future, Humanity has spread out beyond earth. There are official colonies on a number of planets, planetoids, asteroids, moons, whatever… all of which have been terraformed in some way. Unfortunately, the explorers have taken earth politics with them. The earth itself is dying. The planet surface is barely habitable, most settlements have moved underground (which might explain why subterranean existence on extra-terrestrial bodies isn't that big a deal) and anyone with the right connections is buying their ticket out.

Anyone without the connections is also buying their ticket out – only they don't end up on nicely run colonies, the end up in Flag-drops, illicit camps (or homesteads if you will).

If immigration is looking set to be the war-mongers instrument of choice in the early 21st century, by the time of Lamb's Nemises it's all about the politics of emigration…on an genuinely global scale: a planet evacuation scale.

Maybe.

First contact has been and gone. Some time preceding the book, earthlings have met the Transcended. Aliens who gave us amazing technology which allowed humans to augment themselves in ways that even they hadn't yet figured out. One man in particular, got more than his fair share of that augmentation. Will Monet is the nearest thing earth has ever had to a genuine living walk breathing god… sadly for him, the war that is coming might see him becoming even closer to such a fate.

In the meantime, he's trying to stop the war. Earthers and Colonists are pushing at the edges of the peace, but what Monet doesn't yet know is that there is a conspiratorial league who see the war as a means to an end… and they have found a weapon that even Will Monet doesn't know about. The best starship in the galaxay with superman at the helm isn't going to be able to stop this one… especially as his hands will be tied.

There are rumours of another alien species in the neighbourhood. The diplomats have control of the arsenal, and it's not entirely clear whose side they are on.

What follows is a roller-coaster space chase. The battle sequences are great. The mind-manipulation tortures are suitable squeamish. The heroes are suitably flawed with enough believeable(ish) back-story to work. There's enough 'need to know' surprise reveals to underline precisely how paranoid earth government, science and every other organisation has become. There's a great line towards the end that twists the old saw just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you

Characterisation is clever, despite the relatively little attention paid to it.

I just got too bogged down in too much explanation of why stuff was happening. Let's face it, whatever explanation you gave me for the jelly-fish-transporter-thing would just be window dressing. I have no idea whether the one actually taking up time in the action and showing how clever the female science person is has any grounding in fact or whether it's just word-warping. If the former, ok, someone will get more from it than me. If the latter, it should have been cut. That was one example. The book is full of them. I wish it wasn't.

I wish I could have just been given the politics, a vague-enough idea of human augmentation and why Mark hates Will, and who the League are… and then I'd have been up for the Sharpe in space escapade. As it was, I had to trudge through too much made-up stuff that we didn't need. Too many similies of things being like other things, didn't help either. There are better ways of expressing such concepts.

All in all, I enjoyed the story, felt for the characters, but found the book too much like hard work.

Only part way through this review did I discover that this isn't a standalone book. It is the second in a trilogy. In its favour I can say that actually it works well as a stand-alone. You don't need to read Roboteer to understand what's going on . The downside is, it won't encourage you to go back to the beginning or care overmuch about what happens next.

Not a bad book, just one that demands too much input and delivers too little satisfaction in exchange.

For recent science fiction we have enjoyed, have a look at Dark Sky by Mike Brooks.

Buy Nemesis by Alex Lamb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nemesis by Alex Lamb at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Nemesis by Alex Lamb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nemesis by Alex Lamb at Amazon.com.


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