The Age of Scorpio by Gavin Smith

Rating 8.5/10
Striking imagery and incredible imagination, this is a dramatic and exciting slice of sci-fi.

Of all the captains based out of Arclight only Eldon Sloper was desperate enough to agree to a salvage job in Red Space. And now he and his crew are living to regret his desperation. In Red Space the rules are different. Some things work, others don't. Best to stick close to the Church beacons. Don't get lost. Because there's something wrong about Red Space. Something beyond rational. Something vampyric… Long after The Loss mankind is different. We touch the world via neunonics. We are machines, we are animals, we are hybrids. But some things never change. A Killer is paid to kill, a Thief will steal countless lives. A Clone will find insanity, an Innocent a new horror. The Church knows we have kept our sins.

This is a fast-paced thrill-ride and Smith wastes no time with lengthy exposition or build-up. A few pages in, and I had no idea who was going to survive or who was going to die… And this felt fresh and unpredictable.

Smith’s novel has cracking dialogue, with sardonic humour and a world weary cynicism permeating proceedings. The technology is impressive and inventive, and when the action comes, it is desperate and frenetic.

With three plot strands: past, present and future, there is always a danger that reader attention could drift or favour one storyline over the other. Yet, thanks to Smith's skill as a writer all chapters neatly interweave together and I was gripped throughout.

The gamers influence is strong and integral to the plot. This is a slick action sci-fi adventure that jumps from ancient Britain, contemporary Britain and our future in outer space.

Smith writes characters well, particularly his two main female ones of Britha, an ancient Briton and Beth from our own time. Both are three dimensional humans who really consider their actions and feel the consequences. Both are trying to do what is best for others, and both go through the mill in order to do it.

Other notable standouts are Malcolm Du Bois, a grizzled police detective with a difference, and Vic and Scab, two comic but deadly bounty killers.

The violence is at times shocking, getting so over the top that it almost becomes comic. Whether this is intentional or not, I do not know. There are only so many savage beatings, broken bones, decapitations and dismemberments before you become jaded with it all. The unflinching violence is however integral to the plot so can be forgiven here.

With striking imagery and Smith’s incredible imagination, this is a dramatic and exciting slice of sci-fi. Very ambitious in scope and lengthy at over 500 pages, this will reward its readership with a thoroughly entertaining, multi-layered story with compelling heroines and anti-heroes.

The Age of Scorpio by Gavin Smith
Published 2013 by Gollancz
ISBN: 978-0575094758

www.danielcann.com

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