Aussie book reviews

Ferren and the Angel is the first book in the Ferren Trilogy by well-known author Richard Harland.

So let’s start with the central premise: the novel is set on the western outskirts of Sydney, Australia, about a thousand years in the future. Human civilisation has collapsed after centuries of war with the angelic choirs of Heaven.

The few surviving humans are scattered across the Australian continent in small, unobtrusive communities. Known as Residuals, they have devolved to the point where the technological prowess of their ancestors has passed into myth. The Residuals are allied with the Humens (yes, I spelt it correctly) who are technologically advanced and leading the ongoing war effort against Heaven.

Intrigued? Well I certainly was. This is a fresh take on the post-apocalyptic setting and Harland’s world-building is a particular highlight. He manages to dole out the necessary background information on the lives of the Residuals, the origins of the Humens, and the 7 altitudes of Heaven, without slowing down the narrative in the slightest.

Ferren is the main protagonist, and his intelligence, curiosity and compassion set him apart from most of the other Residuals in his community. When he meets Miriael, a junior warrior angel that has fallen to Earth, both characters are set upon a path that just might change the course of history.

This is a unique coming of age story that will appeal to all readers of fantasy. Ferren and the Angel is the first book in the Ferren Trilogy, so there are more instalments to look forward to.

Overall, 5 stars and highly recommended if you’re looking for a fresh spin on the post-apocalyptic tale with engaging characters who are trying to make a difference in the world.

Traitor’s Run is the first instalment in The Lenticular Trilogy by Australian author Keith Stevenson, and it has all the trappings of science fiction that you’d expect; a vast galactic canvas with a myriad of extremely well-drawn alien societies, interstellar travel, and plenty of political machinations.

The central administration of humanity’s Hegemony is fixated on controlling all sentient species it encounters, although not without reason, as we learn early on that humanity was almost wiped out in a war with another species twenty years earlier.

The story is told from two points of view: Rhees Lowrans is a Fleet pilot whose miscalculation during an exercise costs the life of her lover. Dismissed from Fleet in disgrace, her father’s connections gift her a second chance in the Hegemony Diplomatic Corps (HDC). The HDC is part intelligence agency, part black ops and humanity’s first line of defence against extraterrestrial threats. Rhees soon comes to despise Troels Volmar, the Comptroller of HDC and his ‘ends justifies the means’ approach to diplomacy.

The second viewpoint is from Udun, an alien from the Kresz homeworld. (Picture a lobster in the shape of a very large human with a cobra-like hood that can engorge from the back of its neck and you get the idea.) The Kresz are a highly empathetic species, which means they sense the emotions of other Kresz nearby and participate in a world mind whilst retaining their individuality. The Kresz are an insular species and want nothing to do with the Hegemony, but the HDC has other ideas.

Udun is unlike most Kresz in that he is interested in other species and yearns to spend more time off the Kresz homeworld. And here we encounter one of the key themes in Traitor’s Run; both Rhees and Udun are ostracised for not conforming to the expectations of their societies. While their respective journeys do not intersect – at least not in this instalment – there are obvious parallels including the inevitable collision between independent thinkers and heavy-handed regimes. Thought-provoking material indeed.

I find some science fiction can be difficult to engage with, particularly where high science concepts dominate or the canvas is so vast it inevitably comes at the expense of characterisation. However, I didn’t find that with Traitor’s Run at all. Stevenson’s pacing is brisk and his tendency towards a modest level of description and short paragraphs worked well as I read the novel on my Kindle.

Conclusion: this is intelligent and accessible SF, with engaging characters and themes that are very relevant to modern day. I can’t wait for the next instalment and would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys stories about humanity finding its place amongst the stars.