The story itself is very well written in a deceptively simple and easy to read style. It is engaging, intriguing and it can be read and enjoyed on multiple levels. The characters are complex, and the sense of mystery grows as you progress.
Sometimes the world of Penrose that Ballantyne has created can seem all too familiar, and at other times utterly alien. Fast paced and with a palpable sense of urgency throughout, the book veers from scenes of breathtaking beauty and tenderness, to shockingly violent cruelty, to heartbreakingly sad tragedy. Ballantyne uses his non-human robot protagonists to good effect to explore from a unique and new perspective the very nature of human themes such as love, sex, morality, duty, honour, free will, ambition, destiny, power, politics, and cruelty.
It is a world inhabited by humanoid robots, female and male robots. Baby robots are created when a female robot twists the wire from a male robot into a mind for a newborn and it is inserted into a baby body. The twisting of a mind decides personality, fidelity and talent. Their past is shrouded in legends. But now humans have arrived at Penrose and their motivations isn't pure. Most robot minds are twisted for `what is' but a few are twisted with the ability to make their own decisions. This is an epic story about the start of a new era where everything changes for the robots of Penrose. This is the second book in the series that started with Twisted Metal (review below). The first book explored the origin of the robots on Penrose as well as the City of Artemis' war of conquest against Turing City and the North.
This story continues the story of Karel a strange robot that survived the conquest of Turing City on his quest to rescue his wife Susan from Artemis City and it also follows the former commander, Kavan of the Artemis Army on his return to the same city. We don't know much about the second continent Yukawa but here we get to follow Wa-Ka-Mo-Do a newly appointed commander that has to deal with the newly arrived humans.
- The book is dedicated to Eric, Chris and Simon - There is a map of the second continent Yukawa in the beginning
This is such an original world populated with humanoid robots and animal robots. The great mystery is how did they come to be? The Book of Robots talk about the Makers and the first robots but it is forbidden in Artemis and Yukawa. Now the humans have arrived, are they really the makers? Filthy animals according to some.
Above their world hangs a metal moon, what is that? And what are the humans doing to it?
I especially enjoyed the Emperor and the Silent City and their brand of robot society contrasted with Artemis utilitarian world view `everything is metal'
Kavan has succeeded in conquering the north and now he is returning to Artemis City as a hero. But the leaders fear him and they plan treason to stop him, for they have been twisted to love leadership above all. He forms an army and marches against Artemis City picking up knowledge and followers on his way.
Kavan made to follow and believe in one ideology as are all the soldiers of Artemis can be seen as a clever critique of fanaticism as opposed to Karel's freedom to make up his own mind.
Karel is also on his way to Artemis City to reunite with his wife. He travels in the wake of the Uncertain Army and he explores secrets hidden in the old mountains of the north on his way.
On the other continent Wa-Ka-Mo-Do is in trouble, the humans has been given land and privileges by the emperor but the robots of Yukawa has been made for a society without humans and the tension continues to build. The humans' motivation is not pure and there are fractions in conflict with each other. He learns more about the mysterious humans and befriends a teenage girl I hope will return next book. There is exploitation and colonialism in the way the humans treat the robots.
I also enjoyed Susan's exploration of Artemis City while she tries to find her missing friend and escape.
Eventually there is a clash on both continents that will change their world forever.
I love the robots, Tony switches point of view and there is no problem understanding or believing their motivation. I am usually not fond of multiple main characters as it dilutes my focus but here it works great for me. The switches back and forth are timely and appropriate to what is happening. You will find that the timelines might not be what you expect but that works well too.
The only one I miss from the first book is Maoco O, the city guard that survived and was about to start a resistance. What happened to him?
Easily one of the best books I read this year if not the best. There is not often you read a truly original story. A world of robots made for how that world is, clashes with new concepts as conflicting human groups lands and starts to take advantage. It is a story about exploitation, colonialism, fanaticism and free will all packed in an epic science fiction saga about robots. I have been fascinated by robots since I read The Caves of Steel. You can read it as a standalone novel but I recommend you read Twisted Metal first. This is one of the books you should read this year.
The events follow directly on from the previous book, Twisted Metal. Thankfully, for those who haven't yet read the first in the Penrose Series, the author has provided a synopsis up front.
Most of the action in Twisted Metal took place on the continent of Shull, whose robots have little understanding or interest in anything organic. In Blood and Iron, the action is divided between Shull and Yukawa, a more verdant continent whose robots have an appreciation for aesthetics and who cultivate trees, plants and livestock. Yukawa has an `oriental' feel to it and the robots there seem more sophisticated.
There are five main characters. Kavan, Spoole, Karel and Susan are located in Shull where events continue on from Twisted Metal, playing out the drama left somewhat unfinished at the end of the first book. In Blood and Iron, we are also introduced to Wa-Ka-Mo-Do - a warrior-poet. Strikingly beautiful, his skill, prowess and speed, as well as his rank, are admired and feared by most other robots. His tragic story arc begins early in the book, where he is summoned to the Silent City for a direct audience with the Emperor. Ordered to Sangrel, an outlying province, he is told to liaise with Penrose's newest arrivals - animals. Animals who have arrived from the stars and who have powerful weapons and machinery at their disposal.
Inevitably, the humans turn out to be less interested in learning about the robots than screwing them over. Despite their comparatively fragile existence, these `animals' turn out to be a lot tougher, and a lot more dangerous than they appear. Wa-Ka-Mo-Do is caught in an excruciating dilemma between his duty to the Emperor and his responsibility to the people of Sangrel. His indecision ultimately leads to his downfall and to a terrible fate, much worse than death.
This book is written entirely from the robots' perspective, and perhaps this is why their plight puts the reader's sympathy in their camp. There is also the uncomfortable feeling that the behaviour of the humans is, sadly, all too typical, especially when big business is involved.
Tony Ballantyne writes about Penrose with such unstinting confidence the reader is naturally drawn into the story. The characters are well-rounded, believable and likeable. The story itself moves forward at just the right pace, particularly as the situation Wa-Ka-Mo-Do faces becomes increasingly impossible. It's one of those books you look up from and find it's 2 am and you should have been asleep hours ago.
A superb middle book in the Penrose trilogy, these are surely destined to become classics of the genre. The depth and scope of Ballantyne's robot books should not be underestimated: there are some serious philosophical, religious, and sociological issues interwoven within this easy-to-read robot action adventure story.
Science Fiction tales often have to break the mould and present the reader with something new. You definitely get that with Tony Ballantyne. With this offering Tony brings the second tale from the Penrose series to the fore and ups the anti with every passing page. The characters have human traits whilst still retaining their metal forms backed up with an overall arc that is really breathtaking. A real treat and one that I hope to enjoy again shortly. One word of advice is to reread the original offering, Twisted Metal, prior to starting the second. I failed to do this and was confused for a little bit until I reread the original and had a lot more fun with this second book.
I liked this book and thought the author did a good job of creating a plausible robot society. The characters well interesting and well developed and kept the book going despite the fact that there did not seem to be much point to the existence of the robot societies and made that part of the plot a bit thin. The idea of the book of robots could have done with a bit of development. A a good read and well recommended.
This was a great book. The sequel to Twisted Metal. It was a gripping story leaving wonder were it was going. The characters were really strong and you found yourself rooting for them or hating them, depending on who they were. Looking forward to book three, if there is one.
Was a very good read. It was a shame about the grammar mistake that managed to slip through on page 92. "I got [to] know when people weren't telling the full truth". I have not been able to forget about the mistake throughout the entire book and was continuously looking for more.
But I do not wish to spoil anything for anyone. But the two books of the series has been a very enjoyable read for me on my train journeys and highly recommended for anyone who likes to giggle at a robots perspective on "Life"