Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black
The aliens came on Valentine’s Day. They didn’t come in peace, they didn’t offer to share their advanced knowledge, they didn’t even ask us to surrender. They simply, methodically, and ruthlessly began to destroy the planet. 500 years later, and humanity has fought the alien race, known only as “Valentines” or “Romeos,” to a standstill. Our success came by harnessing their own technology, a blend of mechanics and something very like magic called thelemity. But when the nature of the battle begins to change, humanity must adapt with it, or face extinction.
So one of the cover blurbs for this book called it a mix between Harry Potter and Starship Troopers, so naturally I had to read it. (Confession time: I’ve never actually read Heinlein’s book, though I have seen the 1997 movie starring Casper Van Dien and (sorry) enjoyed it. I’ve been told that this makes me a bad person. I have no argument against that)
So anyway, the book was pretty freaking neat. Yes, most of the central characters are teenagers, but we’re dealing with issues like sex, random violence, dismemberment, planetary eradication, and military discipline, so this really isn’t a book for the young kiddos. Black’s world building is generally interesting, though I will confess to a few eye-roll worthy moments early on. Fortunately, if you make it through the more goofy stuff in the beginning (I’m looking at you, N’workies), then the book really comes into its own. I especially liked the concept of thelemity, which seems like something you’d find in the Warhammer 40k universe. The futuristic-yet-strangely-arcane technology was consistently interesting and well used (and also well explained).
The book is told from the point of view of several different characters, and Black does a great job of giving each their own voice (though some are more aggravating than others, especially early on). I also found it interesting that this brutal tale of war and loss was told exclusively through the eyes of children. Each of these kids has grown up in a state of perpetual war (ahem, sound familiar?), and so the sacrifices and the brutality that go along with such a state are taken, if not in stride, then as the way things have always been. I’m not sure if I enjoy this point of view or if I find it disturbing (probably a bit of both).
So, if you like your sci-fi dark, and your battles with giant space monsters bloody, if you need more lasers, huge guns, and combat exoskeletons in your life, then this may be the book for you.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.