on 12 January 2014
Assassin's War ranks with the true spirit of science fiction in it's ability to do two things simultaneously: tell a fantastic tale that offers inventive ideas about the future, other species or similar topic, while at the same time giving us relevant themes to apply to contemporary life. I love how Vann is able to brilliantly excel in both veins in this novel.
On the story level, Assassin's War is a winner. We're thrown right into it, as it the time of war, and there is a specific need for a murder to be avenged. The lethally-trained Tien, whom the Udek desperately need to deploy, first needs to be resurrected, though. And in his resurrection, of course he wants his wife to be reborn. Those who can do this transfer are the Bodhi, and neither they nor Tien know if they will be protected by the Udek after the war. All of this creates friction as power plays line up against in other and play out.
The action and adventure is exciting and compelling, the battle maneuvers are fierce and strategically thrilling and the one-on-one work brutal. Then what's incredibly engaging is the levels below the story. What does it mean to be or have a soul? How would it change us to be in another body, or truly experience another way of life? Do we carry karma from past deeds? Are we all just one step removed from animals--are any of the species in the book any better than any others? Shared consciousness/mental connections is a theme that returns in several different ways, and you can't help but be captivated by the big questions raised by the Bodhi's neo-Buddhist rituals and transfer process.
As experience wears holes into Tien's training and conditioned belief systems that justified his brutality for the Udek, he evolves and we as readers have to question where we have similar growth to do. In all, this is a highly rewarding read that packs a galaxy-sized punch.
on 5 February 2014
I initially read “Monk” which is set in the same universe and I would recommend to anybody giving it a five star rating. After reading that I was eager to get my hands on this but for me it falls a little short. Some great ideas including many different races and cultural complexities all fitting nicely into one, not overly long book. Characters are okay and the journey and changes undertaken by the main character are in keeping with the Buddhist undertones of both books, more strongly put across in “Monk.”
There are several parts where words are missing from sentences which distracted me from the rhythm of the story, this really could do with another read through! On the whole this didn’t overly fulfil my expectations from the previous book and although it probably isn’t fair to rate this in comparison I am giving it a lower rating but I will be keeping an eye on the author for more shining works of originality!