Red Claw by Philip Palmer

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Red Claw by Philip Palmer

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Becky Hazlett
Reviewed by Becky Hazlett
Summary: The author has created an amazing setting for this fun Sci-Fi tale of man versus machine and alien. It won't leave you cold but you can expect a high body count.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841496245

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New Amazon, home to some of the most violent and deadly alien life imaginable, is due to be razed to the ground in order to make way for human habitation. A team of scientists, led by the charismatic Richard Helms, have been stationed on this planet under military protection, in order to study and catalogue the flora and fauna. However, the computer super brain handling all the technology has inconceivably turned on her human charges, forcing soldier and scientist alike to abandon base head quarters. As if the planet's hostile environment (including bouts of acid rain) were not enough of a threat, the characters are also pursued by legions of killer robots. Life expectancy does not look good.

Red Claw moves at a relentless pace; the novel is divided into the days spent fighting for survival and very frequently switches perspective between the different characters. It's quite confusing at first as there are a lot of characters (to start with at least) and they have barely been introduced before things start to go wrong and continue to do so at an alarming rate. After Day 1, I was hooked. I read this book so quickly; it's easy to read but the fact that the characters are constantly in mortal peril did make it pretty compelling. This novel is about survival of the fittest, or in this case, the one with the intact body armour and still holding their plasma gun. As you've probably already guessed, Red Claw doesn't take itself too seriously, which is alright by me. It's very entertaining and even made me laugh out loud a few times. I could see it being made into a film along the lines of Starship Troopers.

Much of the comedy arises from the interaction between the nerdy scientists and their polar opposites, the soldiers. The scientists have been taken out of their comfort zones but still can't help being scientists it seems. Dr. Hugo Baal, who is busy worrying about animal and plant classifications whilst his life is in danger, is a prime example. Extracts are taken from his diary in which he has an amusing tendency to overdo the (not wholly scientific) footnotes. The soldiers, more at home in the hostile environment, are taking military protocol and the possibility of a 'glorious death' very seriously. Palmer has created an engaging array of distinct characters. As the number of survivors dwindle, the bickering and arguing among them increases. And, in the end, it manages to be a fairly character driven story despite all the action, which I think is one of the reasons this novel works so well. I found myself warming to some of the characters as the novel progressed and there's even a touching love story.

Arguably the best thing about Red Claw is the vast menagerie of weird, fascinating and not necessarily convincing alien creatures and plants; exploding trees, travelling quicksand and giant Godzilla beasts being just a few examples out of many. Palmer is extremely inventive. It's not all blood and gore either, the scientists have an endearing enthusiasm and respect for alien life and even some of the soldiers experience a sense of wonderment. Neal Asher is another author with a similar talent for creating weird and dangerous aliens creatures and planets you wouldn't want to visit.

An interesting social background to Red Claw is partially revealed; in a society with a rigid caste system, individuals are subjected to conditioning like Aldus Huxley's Brave New World. There are teasing references to Gamers on earth who have control over events on different planets (no doubt a subject for a future novel).

The novel is fairly profane and contains a few references to bodily fluids. Many times I was amused by a well-placed swear word. Not recommended to those who are easily offended by the usage of such language. This won't be every one's cup of tea but I enjoyed Red Claw and am looking forward to reading the author's next book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Polity Agent by Neal Asher.

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Buy Red Claw by Philip Palmer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Red Claw by Philip Palmer at


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