World of Fire (Dev Harmer Mission) Mass Market Paperback – 26 Aug 2014
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"Flaming good fun"--SFX Magazine
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What James does well is generate characters that the readers want to spend time with. They’re complex, they’re rounded and whilst some of the story elements may seem far-fetched the believability of the principle character really keeps you glued. What occurs within is a story of Science Fiction Crime with a detective who has to adapt not only to differing environments but also different bodies as each one is specially vat grown for him to suit the world that he is being sent to, with his consciousness being implanted into the new body. It works wonderfully well, allows a whole host of different concepts to be explored and all round allows you to hope and dream as it wends its merry way. Back this up with solid prose, some wonderful twists and the chance to see that the stranger things may seem to us, the more they are the same with emotional conflicts and murder speaking many languages and crossing different evolutionary paths. Great stuff.
It borrows heavily from the critically acclaimed Altered Carbon by getting an ex-military turned private investigator with unusual methods downloaded into a new body in a strange place to solve a mystery. He is soon faced by a sassy female police authority figure that he rubs up against the wrong way with poorly veiled sexual tension. So very like Altered Carbon, I shan't spoil the ending but yes similarities abound. Sadly it doesn't really explore this subject matter like Altered Carbon does or really offer anything unique.
Another niggle is the enemy of humanity introduced in the prologue is a super intelligent AI race which is also extremely religious. Again without much justification, world building or real basis in AI research. This could be an interesting idea but honestly it feels like just another way to paint religious radicals. It's made worse by the fact the entire of humanity seems to have suddenly given up the concept of faith or religion in all forms which is also presented without exploration or justification. I wouldn't hark on this point but it becomes a plot point and is poorly handled. With false notions like laterally thinking and word puzzles being hard for AI to solve.
Overall I enjoyed the read as a trashy sci-fi read of the sort of fantasy in space. Mostly I'm giving it 3 instead of 4 because of the missed opportunities, lack of meat in the world and the fact I feel like I knew everything about the main character by the end of the book despite this being an ongoing series. Also the author described this as hard sci-fi which it isn't in any shape or form.
A fun book, I shall never revisit.
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World of Fire (Dev Harmer Mission)
by James Lovegrove
Series: Dev Harmer Mission
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Solaris (August 26, 2014)
The Story: A brand new SF series from the author of the Pantheon series. Dev Harmer wakes in a new body with every mission, and he has woken this time on Alighieri, a planet perpetually in flames, where the world's wealth lies below the elemental surface, and humanity is not the only race after it.
Dev Harmer, reluctant agent of Interstellar Security Solutions, wakes up in a newly cloned host body on the planet Alighieri, ready for action.
It’s an infernal world, so close to its sun that it surface is regularly baked to 1,000°C, hot enough to turn rock to lava. But deep underground there are networks of tunnels connecting colonies of miners who dig for the precious helium-3 regolith deposits in Alighieri’s crust.
Polis+, the AI race who are humankind’s great galactic rivals, want to claim the fiery planet’s mineral wealth for their own. All that stands between them and this goal is Dev. But as well as Polis+’s agents, there are giant moleworms to contend with, and a spate of mysterious earthquakes, and the perils of the surface where a man can be burned to cinders if he gets caught unprotected on the day side…
The Review: An Interstellar Detective Mystery and an alien fighting an enemy that could be anywhere or anyone.
Let’s start off with the best part of the whole book: The main character is dispatched on missions where he wakes up in cloned bodies. While cloning and mind-transference is nothing new in science fiction, the author combines and cultivates those two concepts and creates something unique.
When Dev is dispatched to a new planet, his consciousness is downloaded into a new body and not just any body, one that is custom designed for the particular environment. In the planet Alighieri’s case, it is a short, squat, thick skinned man, one suited for the heat and high gravity and heat of such a world. That is an idea that seems obvious yet Bookworm has not really encountered before. Usually, its just a straight up clone of the original.
Dev Harmer’s original body (supposedly) no longer exists and if he completes enough missions, he will get a fresh clone body, this time of his original self, permanently.
This adds an existential angle to an otherwise science fiction update of Sam Spade, while not entirely original, is still interesting to contemplate. Dev wonders if he is really still human, when he really is a bunch of ones and zeroes hitching a ride on an interstellar transmission.
Dev Harmer himself is a good character as well. He may not be the most nuanced character in the literary world but he does not need to be. He is tough, sarcastic, able to give and take punches, and inexplicably becomes attached to the female lead. More importantly, he is thoughtful. He thinks things out before acting and has to use his wits and words to get out of tough scrapes.
Some have already made the argument that Dev seems to stumble into his clues and leads but lets be honest: that’s the case with almost every fictional representation of investigative endeavors. CSI, NCIS, World of Fire, if any of those were accurate portrayals, the book would be as long as Game of Thrones.
What is also worthy of mentioning is the setting. A common trope of space opera that might bug some people is how a supposedly alien planet seems to be a perfect fit for humans or whatever species deems to live there. The only difference seemingly the color of the grass. There is nothing particularly wrong with that. It harkens back to the tales of seafarers and the islands they visited while traversing the ocean. It is not, however, indubitable scientific. In this novel though, we are treated to something far more realistic. The planet Alighieri is like Mercury, the surface is uninhabitable so humanity is forced to live underground. This a very realistic prospect for interplanetary colonization, even for as close as Earth’s Moon.
The thermals are not as intense in a few parts of the book though. The hottest of them is the series’ antagonists, the Polis Plus. The author deserves some credit for making the tried and true machine enemy and making them religiously motivated. That goes along with a theme in this book: taking used concepts an adding a unique twist to them. Be that as it may…Bookworm has trouble ‘getting’ the Polis Plus. We could have a big monologue artificial intelligence and the nature of desire but that’s better saved for later. The best of way saying it: is that it is hard to understand the Polis Plus motivations. Yes, they need energy as much as humanity does and they would compete over it but everything else about them, particularly the religious part and the nature of the war. Perhaps that is intent: the Polis Plus are mysterious and its up to Dev Harmer to stop them not understand them.
Then again…it may simply be a case of reading too much into it. This is an uncomplicated book, not simple, uncomplicated. Its a mystery on another planet where the Polis Plus are the bad guys. The philosophical angles may simply be added for a little bit of flavor.
Final Verdict: World of Fire is a flaming start to a hot new series, that Bookworm is eager to continue. The fact that each book in the series is going to be based on a classical element makes only more irresistible in Bookworm’s eyes.
Four Helium-Threes out of Five.
Like most of Mr. Lovegrove's novels, it starts off with a bang after the first chapter. He also takes shots of his Pantheon series that has made him an author to be reckon with. Subtle hints showing the reader that this new series is diametrically different from his Pantheon novels. It was an entertaining read and I am very anxious for the follow up novel World of Water where Dev Harmer has a very limited time in trying to make things right.
If you are a fan of Redlaw and the Parthenon series, you will definitely enjoy this new series!