The Noise Within Mass Market Paperback – 27 Apr 2010
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About the Author
Ian Whates is a director of both the Science-Fiction Writers Association and the British Science-Fiction Association. He is also the proprietor and editor of NewCon Press. The Noise Within is his first novel.
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In some ways it reminded me of Peter F Hamilton, although not as big, which may well be considered a good thing. A futuristic universe where the technology in play is big, and fun, the kind of thing the inner child in you feels is just ‘cool.’ And to be honest, if I were ever going to try and write SF like this it is the kind of things I would love to play around with (in a totally different way).
It is a tale of a humanity straining to make progress, of talking guns, integrated AI and humans, of big ideas that work well, and at the core of the story that slowly draws everyone together is a mysterious ship, The Noise Within appearing out of nowhere and conducting acts of piracy while trying to recruit crew.
It is a great read, fast paced, while not overdoing the detail, giving the reader just enough to maintain interest, tell them what they need to know and moving the story on to a gripping conclusion while hitting hard with enough threads remaining to be picked up in the sequel, without hitting the reader over the head, demanding they return for the follow up.
Well written, well thought out, at some point I will be picking up that sequel.
Is it space opera? Almost. I think there's a wider scope of imagination needed. There's certainly potential. This feels like a first novel and a quick look at Ian Whates' website certainly suggests that it's one of his early ones. I will be reaching for the sequel very soon as I need the answers to the cliff hangers.
Which is a shame and possibly a failing of the publisher rather than the author. The book also has a cover and typeface that more than evokes memories of the 90's published Ian M Banks book Consider Phlebas (The Culture) which is again a stand alone piece of space opera.
Others have reviewed the actual novel and I echo their sentiments. There is no one strong character that you feel you can get behind. Leyton is probably the closest but still not fully there. That said, I did enjoy the book on some level and I think there is potential. I will probably seek out the next one when it is published as there are some good ideas that may be realised.
Recommended to people who like Neal Asher and Peter F Hamilton but not as good as either, sorry!
It presents a future of space travel, colonised planets, and a human society recovering from some sort of traumatic civil war. The setting put me in mind of The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F Hamilton, but without the advanced bio-science. Whates throws a pair of main characters into the story: Philip Kaufman is a rich scientist, whose father invented a particularly good star drive, but also dabbled with an AI/Human interface for piloting ships, with disasterous results. Leyton is a black-ops commando with an intelligent gun, who spends much of the book being sent on various missions. Further characters get brought in for short periods, and one, Kethi, seems to be intended as a future main character.
It's necessary for a book of this type to grab your attention with at least one interesting character, and this is where it falls down. Leyton has potential, and his action sequences are competent, but he never really develops. Kaufman is downright tedious, a spoilt brat grown up with a chip on his shoulder about his father's old AI ship. Whates shows attempts to develop his characters, but seems only able to produce the odd synopsis of their lives rather than writing it into their narratives. The worst example of this is when Kethi encounters someone, and Whates tells us, in one pithy paragraph, that they're good friends, he is madly in love with her, and she will never reciprocate. It's just a cliche chucked on the page with no thought or craft, and never referred to again.
Leyton shows just enough interest to drag you through the opening half of the book, and at this point a tech-orientated writer should have at least have impressed you with his cool new ideas. Not so. It's all very ordinary. There are planets, and ships, and some AI, and it's all stuff that was done years ago: personas in cyberspace - Snow Crash; dead people's personas in cyberspace - Reality Dysfunction series; AI gun - Against a Dark Background; Wormholes - everyone. The worst example is a lovingly described moment when Kaufman and someone else knock their wrist-computers together to become electronic friends. That's not even the future, that's iPhones with Bump installed!
The actual plot eventually winds it way towards assembling the main characters on the AI ship Kaufman's father lost years ago. At this point I was expecting some cool revelations and reveals. Well, no. Despite there being no mention of it on my copy of the book, this is clearly the start of a series, and any real information is clearly to come in later installments. There's a big event, which I won't spoil, which doesn't really tell you much apart from that you'll be shelling out for more books.
Despite the ranting above, it's not actually a terrible book, it's just deeply average. Much worse has been written before, and will be again. There's even a chance that Whates will find his feet and produce good work. But this is a mess of non-ideas and undeveloped characters, tied together with pedestrian prose. I'd buy it to read it on the train for a pound, maybe.