Embedded – Book Review

December 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Dan Abnett is one prolific author. He’s worked for the world’s leading comic book publishers, Marvel and DC, and published dozens of books within the Warhammer and Doctor Who franchises, amongst others. What is rare is an original novel, a work of fiction that is pure Abnett. Embedded, published by Angry Robot in 2009, is one such novel.

Embedded follows veteran reporter Lex Falk as he attempts to uncover the truth behind rumours of conflict on a newly colonised world. Given the runaround by military high command, Falk gets himself chipped into the head of a frontline soldier in order to uncover the story of a lifetime.

The novel is a pure, adrenalin-fuelled sci fi thriller, and I loved every second spent reading it. The tone is clipped and rapid, keeping the pace well above the speed limit of most action novels. Abnett fires off every line with the precision of a Special Forces sniper, you would struggle to find a single superfluous word slowing down any of the action sequences.

The science fiction factor is handled expertly. New technologies, philosophies and even linguistic terms are slipped in so smoothly that you would swear you had used them all your life. The world, the tech and the weapons are believable, and most importantly, exciting. From armour-plated aircraft to rifles that fire bolts of scorching energy, every reader, from hardened military sci fi veterans to virgins of the genre, will be picturing themselves in the battlefield.

Characterisation is obviously another strength of Abnett’s. He takes the potential stereotype-minefield of the disillusioned, veteran journalist and wraps it with layers of unexpected character, avoiding every possible pitfall. Lex Falk is still learning things about himself, and you are with him every step of the way. And, as only happens in fiction, you find yourself coming to love a character that would be tolerable at best were he a real person.

The story, though fairly linear, has enough twists to keep you in suspense, and pulls you in deep enough that your heart starts beating as if you were the one under fire. This is not a book that you read. It is a book that you live. The edge-of-the-seat action and expertly imagined plot make this novel a must read for fans of the genre, and a perfect introduction for newcomers. This is probably the best military sci fi novel I’ve read since Joe Haldeman’s classic, The Forever War.

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