Dan Abnett is well known within gaming and comics subcultures. Abnett worked for some years on the iconic 2000AD comic from whence the Judge Dread character originates. He also worked for Marvel on several lines including The Punisher and X-Men.
He is also the evil genius behind some of Games Workshops/Black Library's best selling and most highly acclaimed Warhammer 40K game tie ins. Fans of Doctor Who and Torchwood may know him from his, novels Border Princes, The Story of Martha and his writing for the big finish audio series.
So with that much popculture cred under his belt we'd be expecting something fairly spectacular from Abnett. What we get is a well realised background and military science fiction that is most definitely a post "war on terror" novel.
Lex Falk is a reporter on the slow downward spiral of his career. Though he still has enough cred and nouse to play the game, life and long haul space flights is taking its toll.
He lands on Eighty-Six, (settlement worlds are numbered for some time before they are named) the commission is cushy and having him there reporting grants the Settlement Office's (SO) operations and media strategy credibility in dealing with the "dispute" that is affecting corporate share prices.
It soon becomes apparent that what the SO is presenting as "dispute" is something more. Falk teams up with some old contacts and a corporate trouble shooter to try and dig up some more information. This involves Falk being embedded into the consciousness of an enlisted soldier and as you might guess the ride from there on isn't a piece of cake.
What I liked
The "world" of Embedded is nicely realized and I detect some subtle comments, or perhaps observations on current world affairs in regard to corporatisation and military action. The language used by the Settlement Office Military Directorate (SOMD) is reminiscent of the Bush Administration's sanitizing of the term 'torture' ie enhanced interrogation. The book is certainly post September 11 fiction.
I had a nice chuckle at the idea of a corporation sponsoring a swearword that is linked to one of their beverages it was Freeking® brilliant.
It's not 'ard science fiction, there's hat tips to it though, with spinrad drivers for 'in system' travel and health problems caused by low gravity, but its light on detail for how live communication works across the vastness of space. Mind you I don't think it pretends to be either, it's gritty military science fiction.
What I didn't
There wasn't much to dislike, I only have two minor quibbles;
- I felt the reveal at the end came a little too late in the book, I wanted a bit more story about the mining discovery that the forces are fighting over. I suspect though, that there might be a second book in the works.
- A couple of fight descriptions we a tad over done. They were gratuitous and disrupted the flow of the action, dropping me out of the story. I think Abnett might have been having a bit too much fun with them.
A great first outing with a sci-fi 'world' of his own making. Plenty of action, plenty of grit and good characterization. It's extrapolation from themes in current affairs helps keep it grounded and out of the realms of Space Opera. To me it feels like equal parts Black Hawk Down, and Behind Enemy Lines in its tone. Though to be fair it stands on its own is good piece of original fiction. The use of a journalist, albeit in the body of a soldier, as lead character strikes me as original
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