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Defiance is Joel Shepherd's 4th installment in his Spiral Wars series. After successfully recovering the diary that can lead them to the Drysine datacore, this episode focuses on the recovery of the datacore itself requiring heading deeper into Parren space and dealing with the Parren societal and governmental structure.
While much of the sci-fi elements are in line with earlier installments, there is much attention to the organization of the Parren society with a complex interaction of the 5 overall houses, each with internal, oppositional contingents, vying for dominance. One bit of new is the revelation of Drysine technology toying with fundamental aspects of the laws of physics with some interesting results. Much of the presumed history with Parrens and Drysine is revealed as incomplete at best and contrived at worst. More background on Styx is revealed although whether her nature is benign or malevolent is still undecided. What is clear is that the Deepynine / Allo alliance is serious about preventing Styx and Phoenix from playing any future role. Lizbeth emerges as a major player in holding together the shaky alliances Phoenix needs to maintain. The tale ends with the emerging standard of Phoenix heading off further away from known (at least to humans) space hunting for clues that go back further in time to understand the true nature and origin of the Deepynine threat.
John Lee's outstanding narration is an added plus to an otherwise excellent, engaging story. Character discrimination is exceptional, especially given the wide assortment of ethnicities and alien races.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Though I do enjoy its better practitioners, I'm not a superfan of military sci-fi. But the Spiral Wars series is about as good as this sub-genre gets. Of course, John Lee is a superb reader, making even the characters' names sound mellifluous, and he is consistently great across the entire series to date.
What I find most interesting is that despite some "genre-y" elements - for example, much detail on the aspects of ship leadership and its rather heroic practitioners - for the most part, Shepherd keeps these veering away from cliches, or if he goes there, it's earned and appealing when he does.
The most badass Marine captain (you never learn how to spell names in audiobooks!) comes from a place where the most effective fighters build their strength via deep meditation and obsessive discipline that makes her not JUST a badass, but a pretty interesting human character as well...a sort of elite Zen killing machine but also raised with an ethic that makes lying nearly impossible, and makes trust in her actions unquestionable. Alien species are political and interesting, and a lot of the tension in the books is political and interesting - these are the subtleties that set it apart from the more tedious aspects and growling testosterone of the genre. It's got interesting diplomacy and failures of diplomacy that are often as exciting as the battle scenes.
But: This volume in the series unfolds like one gigantic battle, with incredibly complex alliances, and was so tense that I was forced to binge listen over a weekend. I could not stop listening. So genre or no, this is a great read.
The series would also make for great cinema, and this book really amps up the sweeping scope that has been building over the first few outings of the series. There definitely seems to be room to keep going in and I hope that happens. Soon, please, Mr Shepherd?
3 of 3 people found this review helpful