Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.
But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.
A vibrant and talented new voice in SFF: alien technology, addictive upgrades, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down . . .
First of all, I’d like to thank Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for a copy of the book, but this has no way effected my review or opinion – the book’s done that all by itself.
Stormblood is the lovechild of great sci-fi and high-octane action – it’s what would happen if John Wick tore through Mass Effect in a hail of blood and bullets. First POV here gives the reader a close, thoughtful insight into Vakov’s life with a brutality to it that I haven’t felt since Red Rising, mixed with fantastic character building and a whole load of friendship that makes you go warm and fuzzy inside. This book ticked a lot of boxes for me but didn’t slow down to notice that.
The prose stands out here, it’s very colourful, vivid and paints a picture with a full palette; sometimes I got lost in this, more in awe of the setting than I was good at paying attention to the plot – which sometimes led me to backpedal. But I am a reader that’s easily distracted by the beauty of setting, like a golden retriever with a shiny new ball. So, for me, this was both Szal’s strength and weakness. It’s certainly no bad point, but for the easily distracted (me, me, me) it can overwhelm the plot.
In a snapshot, this book sees Vakov Fukasawa, an ex-Reaper (one of Harmony’s stormtech addled super soldiers), chosen once again to work for Harmony in uncovering a plot to poison ex-Reapers and skinnies – those addicted to stormtech off their own back – killing them. Spreading distrust and unsettling the citizens of Compass. With Vakov’s own brother as a prime suspect in the drug-underworld, he must choose between family and doing the right thing. There’s no shortage of original, advanced technology throughout, including an AI torture device that sends wires growing into the victim’s skin, super-suits galore, mad-destructive hand cannons and also a huge dose of different alien species to really ramp up the wonder and excitement. The plot is, as described, full of action, but it also knows when to slow down and really work on character relationships. A book that knows how to pace itself.
Vakov’s flashbacks were some of my favourite scenes; we got to see him right from the get-go, when he first joins his fireteam as a Reaper fighting the Harvest, an alien aggressor that Harmony eventually defeated. There’re harrowing, disturbing and horrific scenes of war. Scenes that had me back in Dark Age, reminiscing of the Fear Knight and his wicked ways. It’s an excellent book that evokes feelings of my favourites. There’s brotherhood in droves, loss and some of the most nail-biting action I’ve ever read. It rounds out Vakov’s character, and it’s at these points that I really felt engaged by his story, pulled in. Without these flashbacks, I don’t think I would have made that connection. And it’s very rare that I feel them necessary, so kudos to Szal on that.
Overall, if you’re a huge fan of anything sci-fi and want to delve into a new series which doesn’t stop to catch its breath, throws a huge arsenal of new tech at you, but also focuses on character development, then this is the book for you. I can’t wait to read the next.