The Liberation: Book Three of The Alchemy Wars by Ian Tregillis

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The Liberation: Book Three of The Alchemy Wars by Ian Tregillis

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Buy The Liberation: Book Three of The Alchemy Wars by Ian Tregillis at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The final instalment of the Alchemy Wars, this gore-soaked, robot rebellion trilogy comes to a close with much to keep us up at night as we extrapolate the worries over AI from the Mechanicals' world to ours.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: December 2016
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356502342

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The war between the New Dutch and the New French continue aided and complicated by the Mechanicals' rebellion. In fact the day the world ended comes as a shock to everyone, not to mention a bloody mess. Let the apocalypse begin!

American author Ian Tregillis knows both how to bring a story to a close and how to start one. This, the third in his 17th-century-alike steampunk/sci-fi/speculative fiction Alchemy Wars trilogy doesn't let us draw breath much after the title page before we're in the middle of increasing carnage. The Mechanicals are scything their way through the Dutch population and Anastasia Bell, Tuinier and leader of the community, has to find a way of stopping them while remaining alive. (To give you an idea, imagine ocean upon ocean of blood-lusting cybermen blessed with inhuman speed and very sharp built-in weaponry.)

Meanwhile on the other side of the war, French engineer/scientist Berenice has become even more ruthless in her desperation. She also demonstrates one of the methods that Ian uses to throw we readers who get attached to characters out of kilter. I don't like her but then every time I get a taste of her sublime sarcastic humour I change my mind until the next barbaric action occurs. (Yes, this time out she's truly barbaric!) So who do we have to gravitate towards in our search for the constant goody? That would be Daniel.

Over the paths of the three books Daniel has probably changed the most. Book 1 saw him as the confused anarchic Jax, leader of the original Mechanicals' rebellion. Then as the story progressed his name changed not only denoting a desire for parity with humanity but also a tendency towards human traits. Now in Book 3 that journey is complete as he feels the pain and guilt of conscience. Almost in a Pinocchio way we see him as a Mechanicals-shaped man. Unfortunately for him this hybridism brings complications yet he remains the most humane character if not the most human.

It's a given that Ian animates sights and sounds of epic scenes in our imaginations but that's not his only skill. He also conveys a mood, an idea or a theme that stays with us in a minor key as well as a major. I won't spoil it but look out for a particular scene involving a cat. In that moment he touchingly conveys the result of destruction in deft light strokes.

From the crash, bang opening to boys' and girls' own adventure finales with optional tears (I took that option!) Ian has transported us to a world that not only could have been in our past but may be soon. As man gets better at creating intelligent life because he can and without any obvious extrapolation of all possible results, writers will scare us and, trust me, this book and its revelations are scarier than most.

(Thank you so much to the folk at Orbit for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: Do go to the beginning and Book 1 if you haven't read it yet. If you have, then we also heartily recommend Ian's WWII alt-history sci-fi/fantasy trilogy The Milkweed Triptych. If you're already a fan and like a bit of alt-history with your sci-fi, we also recommend New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey.

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