Vakov Fukusawa used to be a Reaper: an elite soldier fighting for Harmony against the brutal, invading Harvester empire.
Harmony made him elite by injecting him, and thousands of other Reapers, with the DNA of an extinct alien race to make him stronger, faster, and more aggressive. And it worked. At a cost . . . because alongside their super army, Harmony created an illicit drug market that left millions hopelessly addicted to Stormtech.
Disgusted and disillusioned, Vakov walked away when the war was over.
Only Harmony never took their eye off him. And when his former Reaper colleagues start being killed, their murders form a pattern Vakov has to investigate . . . even though the closer he comes to the truth, the more addicted to Stormtech he becomes.
Stormblood is an adrenaline shot of space-opera, where expansive ideas are honed into a razor-sharp mystery that bristles with action and invention.
Stormtech is the name of the alien DNA which swims through the veins of Vakov Fukusawa. It heightens his senses, dials up his emotions, and is extremely addictive. This book is basically Stormtech. It’s so addictive, the pages just disappear as you blast through them. The characters and story creep under your skin and set your pulse racing. There isn’t an off-switch with this book — once it’s in your veins, there’s no going back. And did I mention that it’s addictive? Seriously. It’ll take a huge amount of self-control to close the book and step away in order for you to catch your breath.
In terms of pacing, Stormblood somehow manages to sustain high-octane intensity even in its quiet moments. Right from the opening chapter, the stakes are turned up to eleven, and yet, impossibly, the whole thing continues to escalate towards a sensational climax. Just when you think it can’t get any bigger, it proves you wrong.
I particularly loved the mixture of so many sci-fi ideas all bubbling away at once. Do you like aliens? Good. Because you’ll find plenty of them here. How about neon-soaked cyberpunk-noir detective-style mysteries? Excellent. That’s here too. Enhanced super soldiers? Augmented humans? Futuristic tech? Military battles? Spaceships? Tortured AIs? Hackers? Holographic rabbits that operate machine-gun-turrets in the ceiling of your apartment? Perfect. Because it has all of these in spades, and this is just scratching the surface. The whole book oozes with ideas — even the booze has its own sci-fi twist — and it’s glorious. All these different ingredients in the one cocktail could easily feel like a jumble, but it doesn’t. Everything’s balanced. Everything works. And everything belongs together. Which means that, for lovers of sci-fi, this book literally has everything.
One of its major strengths is the characters. Vakov is a great protagonist. He’s a flawed fighter with found-family to protect. He’s riddled with Stormtech which makes him question whether he’s got any choice over his decisions. And he’s struggling to do right by a brother who wants nothing to do with him — but also desperately needs him, whether he knows it or not. Bonds of friendship are explored through the links Vak makes with different characters as his loyalty is stretched in different directions. The book puts him on a rack and every chapter gives a twist which opens him up and stretches him that little bit further.
And on that note: sometimes the torment that stretches Vak to his limits isn’t just figurative — it’s literal. With a title like Stormblood, you didn’t think this was going to be all picnics in the park, did you? Scenes can get gruesome at times, so if you’re squeamish when it comes to violence, then you may find yourself torn between wanting to read on and wanting to look away. Like any good rollercoaster, don’t expect an entirely comfortable experience, but if you strap yourself in for the ride then you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
There’s a really interesting commentary on the after-effects of war that lies at the heart of the plot. As the motivations behind what’s really going on begin to take shape, you realise that the conflict driving the plot is actually more of a story in itself. It’ll get you thinking about the damage done in the name of right and wrong, and as the layers peel back, you’ll find plenty of food for thought amidst the chaos and the carnage.
But really, it’s the family-you-have versus the family-you-make that fuels this fire. And what a fantastic, furious blaze it is.
Stormblood is a solid debut that showcases a fractured world, conspiracies galore, ultra-violent action set-pieces, and more sci-fi twists than you can shake a holographic stick at. For avid sci-fi enthusiasts, it’s a must-read — a carnival of ideas with all the bells and whistles you could ever want, and more. But under all the assault-armour, the action and explosions, it’s a raw and tender exploration of why we need each other. It’s a story about brotherhood and the bonds that tie us together. And it’s this honest core which elevates Stormblood into being more than just a dazzling, theatrical thrill-fest. It’s a worthwhile, satisfying, personal read.
But be warned: it’s very, very, very, very addictive.