Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 Ninth City Burning


Imagine a world that has been at war for 500 years. And the war is one that stretches across many realms - on planets that vary as widely as they are scattered across the universe. Back on Earth, in the realm of Hestia, the world that was left after the first attacks of the aliens has been split into enormous cities that are numbered rather than named. Within the cities, young people are tested and trained to become officers, fighters, and other necessary personnel. Settlements outside the cities provide food, raw materials, and draftees to help fight the war. 

Fans of books like Starship Troopers or Ender's Game will notice some similarities. There are the troops trained as grunts to provide manpower and the whole world organized around the war effort. There are academies to train bright young scientists, strategists, and officers. But what Black has added is the concept of thelemity, or what some might see as magic or psychic powers. When the aliens invaded, they somehow activated sources of this power on Earth and contact with the power activates those who can use it. It can supply power to large groups or create devices that store the power for specific tasks and can be used by ordinary humans. Some can use it to control giant war machines (like those in "Pacific Rim" or other giant robot stories); these are the equites who go into battle against the aliens' larger weapons.

Several characters are the focus of the story, with chapters switching back and forth to show what is happening around each of them. As we watch the action unfold, we can see how one part of the war effort affects the others and the connections between the different characters. We can also see how much the culture of Earth has changed since the time of the first attacks. Everything is focused on survival and maintaining the war effort. Things like literature, music, and art have been lost and neglected as unnecessary to the ongoing struggle. Citizens of the settlements live on a need-to-know basis and are not told many of the important details of the war and how it is waged. And those roving bands who live outside the settlements don't even know there is a war going on, or who is fighting it.

The story is one that pulls you in as a reader - enticing you with glimpses of the bigger picture and making you curious as to how this world functions and if it will survive. The characters all have their strengths and weaknesses. Naomi fears she will not live up to her sister's accomplishments. Torro wants to stay in Granite Shore with Camareen and bitterly resents the draft that takes him away. Vinneas is a brilliant tactician, yet he manages to naively put forward opinions that the high command doesn't appreciate. None of them are perfect; they are humans doing the best they can in harsh circumstances. Yet we can identify with them through some of those weaknesses and root for them to come out victorious.

If you like complicated world building, Sci-Fi story lines, military Sci-Fi, or abilities similar to the force or even magic, then you should give it a try. When you reach the end, you will still be ready for more of these characters.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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