Science fiction and fantasy
by Myke Cole
This story starts a little bit before the end of the first novel, so there's an overlap when Bookbinder has a chance to meet Oscar Britton and learn about this terrifying new world. Bookbinder is in the background during the events at the end of the first book, and it's only during the aftermath of these occurrences that he is thrust centre stage. The base is under more intense attack than ever before, and supplies are dwindling. If Bookbinder is to save the lives of thousands of soldiers he will have to rise above his insecurities and his inexperience of combat, and fight.
Fortress Frontier is mostly told from Alan Bookbinders point of view, but there are also other perspectives, including that of Oscar Britton. This is well handled, so that we don't learn so much about the antagonists' motivations, or about what is coming next, that it ruins the tension. It's all very martial, with US military jargon providing a striking contrast to the world of magic and myth. If anything this novel is even stranger than the first. We meet the naga, a haughty race who in this world have a special relationship with India. These huge snake-like creatures take on individual humans a a kind of pet who they bind with for life. There are also a host of other giant demonic creatures and fierce beasts with formidable powers. It's such a high magic setting that it doesn't pay to examine it too closely, or else you will start to wonder how such a world could work without destroying itself in short order.
There's a lot of action, and an exciting race to find allies and aid before the base goes down in flames. The violence of warfare itself isn't glamorised, but various characters display a kind of noble patriotism. I found this idealised, self-sacrificing spirit hard to believe in. I don't know if that's because I'm a cynic, or because it seemed a little out of character for a few of those who ended up acting in this way. It makes for a dramatic ending that's calculated to leave readers with a warm, fuzzy feeling, anyway.
I certainly found this to be an enjoyable story that kept me turning pages, and Alan Bookbinder is a sympathetic character. He doesn't know whether he will react with heroism or intelligence in a crisis, or whether he has it in him to lead people. He starts off relatively ordinary, and sometimes even a bit clumsy, and that's what makes him so likeable and easy to identify with.
20th February 2013
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Review © Ros Jackson