Published by Surf Star Media, The Final Book: Gods is S.W. Hammond’s first foray into an enticing world of gods and mortals. Spanning four millennia of mortal interaction with the divine, the story follows a path that will be both familiar to Assassin’s Creed fans and at the same time something all its own. For centuries members of the Greek pantheon have found themselves stranded on Earth after a childish argument between sisters causes an upheaval among the Gods. As a result of one brash action, mankind is thrust into an age of unprecedented corruption and greed of which the Gods are powerless to circumvent. Flash forward to the late 1960’s and Zeus is reaching the culmination of his work on Earth; Project Genesis. Using technical knowledge gained over the centuries, he has constructed a machine that can create a memory link between a person in the present and a past life. Now all he needs is the right person for the job, and in USAF pilot Martin Akadian he believes he has found him. But even the great King of the Gods is not infallible and what follows is an epic tale of loss and redemption that could spell the end for mankind.
The Final Book: Gods is a story told in three distinct parts, the earliest set 4,000 years ago around Mesopotamia and the latest in modern-day America. Hammond does a great job of interweaving these different stories in a manner that both makes sense and doesn’t compromise the narrative. The book easily glides between each era, unfolding the story in a manner that makes it easy to read and understand. Unfortunately it is this fluidity of storytelling that really makes the court document pieces stand out. They feel completely out-of-place, as they are written in a style entirely at odds with the rest of the book, though their importance to the overall story cannot be discounted. Thankfully the rest of the novel is written to a high standard, and these documents are short enough that they shouldn’t cause the reader to put the book down indefinitely.
A further minor issue I had with the book was the fact that all the characters were practically perfect; Each is introduced with reference to their beauty or intelligence. Of course each of the characters is supposed to be one of the ancient Gods, so some of that might be forgiven but it certainly stood out as something that grated throughout the book. It seemed the female characters defining trait was their beauty while the males frequently, especially Zeus/William, discussed philosophy with ease. Beyond this however, each character stayed true to the mythology upon which they were based: Hera was vengeful, Zeus was frequently unfaithful, but The Final Book: Gods does take the interesting route of showing them trying to overcome their past indiscretions. In their personas of William and Pom, Zeus and Hera appear more like a loving couple than they were in the old myths, while Andi and Chloe seem to have put the incident that accidentally caused Christianity behind them.
At its heart, The Final Book: Gods takes a very interesting view of religious development and as a result has a strong message to put forward. In a similar manner to Becky Chambers’ A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet the book takes a negative view of organised religion. It is perhaps for this reason that the publisher and author describe the book as “a controversial last chapter of humanity.” Should readers be able to get beyond this ‘controversial’ theme they will find an extremely well written tome that certainly deserves a place on any bookshelf. What’s more, S.W. Hammond has revealed that ‘Gods’ is intended as the first part in a trilogy of The Final Book titles, so there’s plenty more to look forward to in the future.
So, things definitely didn’t go to plan on the hobby front yesterday. I had planned to put some more work in on my Ork Kill Team and polish of All the Birds in the Skyfor my Science Fiction & Fantasy book club, but I got held back at work for a few hours so my spare time was severely limited. On the plus side, my second order of the week from Games Workshop arrived, including some shades that I needed for the Orks so I was able to get a little work done. As it stands I’ve gotten all the skin of my Leader and Specialist done along with most of the metal, so I’m pretty happy with the progress there. In fact I’m writing this post while waiting for the Nuln Oil shade to dry.
On the book club front (yes I left reading the book until the last moment) they’ve changed how we’re picking the next read. Instead of letting each member put forward a book to a general vote, we were simply given the choice of two books to choose from. Dark Edenby Chris Beckett won out in a close decision with Station Eleven. I can’t say I was overly enthused to read either book, but then that’s why I joined the club in the first place, to read things I otherwise wouldn’t pick up. In other book related news I should finish off All the Birds in the Sky soon, and maybe even United States of Japan which I had put down in order to get the club book read. Then it’s on to The Underground Railroad for my other book club (meets next Thursday) and then hopefully back-to-backing This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet.
Published by Tor.com, Lightning in the Blood is the second book in Marie Brennan’s tale of Ree Varekai. Much time has passed since the events of Cold-Forged Flame and Aadet’s rebellion has been a success. The former ruler of Solaike has been deposed, and a new leader raised in his place. Cursed to ever wander however, Ree has been away from her old friend for many seasons, but her latest return could not have come at a more troublesome time. Deep in the mountains of Solaike, a group, loyal to the deposed ruler, has been harassing caravans and killing travellers. When Ree comes across one such caravan, little does she know that this chance meeting will reveal her past, dictate her present and set her future on a new path.
Expanding on the scope of its predecessor, Lightning in the Blood once again exhibits Brennan’s skill at character development. Ree provides an interesting main character and her story is one involving so much mystery that the reader is drawn in, eager to find out more. Like the last book in the series, Lightning in the Blood offers up just a tantalising glimpse at the whole picture. Things are made even more appealing by the fact that no one character knows everything about her. Cold-Forged Flame offered little more than a fragment of Ree’s name and revealed her as an archon, while Lightning in the Blood adds a hazy possibility of a past.
Brennan’s use of secondary characters to create an engaging heroine is absolutely masterful. As mentioned before, no one character knows everything there is to know about Ree, but each offers a tantalising glimpse of the whole. Through Ree’s own thoughts we know that her past, before she wakes at the start of Cold-Forged Flame, is lost to her. Through her interactions with other characters, from Aadet and The Lhain to Mevreš we are able to piece together a greater picture of an alluring character.
One of the key issues with the novella as a writing form is the lack of room to really go in depth into character and world creation. Brennan has navigated these waters masterfully however, teasing out little details at a time to create a rich and intriguing world. In Cold-Forged Flame we were briefly introduced to the concept of Archons, while this latest title in the series delves a little deeper. Combined the stories weave an interesting and compelling mythology that attests to the author’s anthropology background. So too are the world and its people becoming more fleshed out as the series continues. All of this lends a pleasant counterpart to the story’s compelling lead character.
Lightning in the Blood is a wonderful addition to the Ree Varekai series. Like its predecessor it offers just the right amount of exposition on a wonderfully detailed world. At just over 100 pages it provides not only an excellent ‘between books’ read but also a compelling read of its own accord.