- Splintered Suns.
- Michael Cobley.
- 512 pages.
- Science Fiction / Space Opera / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
For Pyke and his crew it should have been just another heist. Travel to a backwater desert planet, break into a museum, steal a tracking device then use it to find a ship buried in the planet’s vast and trackless sandy wastes.
Except that the museum vault is a bio-engineered chamber, and the tracking device is sought after by another gang of treasure hunters led by an old adversary of Pyke’s, the devious Raven Kaligara. Also, the ship is a quarter of a million years old and about two kilometres long and somewhere aboard it is the Essavyr Key, a relic to unlock all the treasures and technologies of a lost civilisation . . .
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I’ll start this review by quoting the main character Captain Brannan Pyke:
‘So strap down yer brains – it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!”
Captain Brannan Pyke of the Ship, Scarabus and his riff-raff and ragtag crew. The first mate, Dervla, Ancil, Moleg, Oleg and Kref are contracted by their employer Van Graes to steal a tracking device, the Angular Eye from the City of Cawl-Vesh on the desert planet Ong.
Van Graes is a collector of ancient alien artefacts and he hopes that The Angular Eye can be used to locate the wreck of an ancient ship and the wealth of knowledge and treasure that it holds. Millennia ago, the ship, the Mighty Defender of the Arraveyne Empire was the only ship to escape the collapse of the Arraveyne Imperium. However, during the escape, the ship caught the attention of the Damaugra (a mythical sentient metal monster made of coils and tentacles). The Damaugra relentlessly chased the ship through space, damaging it beyond repair and causing it to crash on the planet Ong. Where its wreckage has remained buried and hidden in the vast desert ever since.
The crew are successful in stealing the device. Then, moments later, the device, is in turn stolen from the hands of Pyke by his nemesis, the unhinged psychopath Raven Kaligara and her bunch of hired goons who had also been tasked with stealing the Eye by their own employer.
After their failure to obtain The Angular Eye Pyke contacts Van Graes and lets him know the bad news. That Raven was one step ahead of them and that she is now in possession of the Eye. Van Graes offers to pay Pyke extra to track down Raven and get the device back from out of her clutches.
Pyke accepts the offer and Van Graes puts him in contact with the Sendrukan scientist Lieutenant-Doctor Ustril (an expert on the Arraveyne Imperium) who will be able to help them. Raven uses the Eye to locate the ancient ship. But, unbeknownst to her, each time the Eye is used it lets of a signal of its own which itself, can be tracked. Pyke, his crew and Lieutenant-Doctor Ustril follow the signals from the Eye and find the massive ship and Raven in the Ong desert.
At the same time as the story is unfolding on Ong and in the corridors of the labyrinthine ship, there is another story taking place concurrently. Inside a crystal, a simulation has been set up by an alien A.I known as ‘The Legacy‘. Anyone who has touched the crystal in the real world leaves an imprint of themselves that is then brought to life in the simulation. Taking place on the Isle of Candles and in the city of Granah (which has a distinct fantasy setting feel to it) The Legacy has set the inhabitants of the simulation a mystery to solve.
The two storylines are joined together and build to a conclusion that has huge ramifications for both the simulated world and the real world. It is hard to elaborate on the simulation, its purpose and how it ties into what is happening in the remains of the Mighty Defender of the Arraveyne Empire for fear of spoiling the story, so, I won’t. Instead, I’ll just write that both storylines are interesting, both keep you invested and both feature some creative ideas used by Cobley (in particular, the Steel Forest and its inhabitants are utterly bizarre and weird).
Pyke is a loquacious sort of fellow with an Irish twang to his vocabulary and a tendency towards being rather verbose. In other words, he likes the sound of his own voice, is often ready with a speech, always has a witticism or quip to hand and the camaraderie and banter between him and his crew is fantastic.
For all that I really liked Pyke and his crew, particularly, Dervla and Ancil. I have to admit to being equally drawn to Raven. Pyke has a decency to him, a moral compass, he tries to do the right thing and cares about his crew. Raven, well, Raven lacks any sort of decency, only cares about herself, is completely a moral and a total lunatic. Throughout the story, she is a great foil for Pyke as they duke it out trading barbs and bullets.
There are quite a few terms that are bandied around by the characters in Splintered Suns but they don’t get in the way of the story. Their use never feels overly excessive or confusing even to a casual SFF reader like myself and I feel that Splintered Suns is an accessible, fast-paced and fun SFF read.
Though Splintered Suns is billed as a standalone I would be interested in reading any future and further adventures of Captain Brannan Pyke should Cobley choose to write any.
Splintered Suns is a raucous romp and a rollicking roller-coaster of a space adventure that is brimming with miscreants, races, rogues, scoundrels and heart.
Purchase Splintered Suns.
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