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on 12 September 2009
The preceding volume to this one, Stealing Light, culminated in the human protagonists, Dakota Merrick and Lucas Corso, fleeing an exploding star having discovered the dark secret that a superluminal drive could force a sun to go nova, making it a phenomenal weapon. They ended up in a system controlled by the Bandati, a race whose social organisation resembles that of insects, with Hives ruled by Queens.

It is at this point that Nova War takes up the story: Dakota and Lucas have been captured and extensively tortured by the Bandati, who want to know all they know about FTL travel Meanwhile, Shoal agent Trader-in-Faecal-Matter-to-Animals, is continuing in his efforts to prevent the spread of knowledge of the FTL secret, and preserve his race. His job is made more difficult, however, by the revelation that the Bandati have long had a Magi derelict of their own, and have been secretly in contact with the Emissaries, an aggressively expansionist race who also possess FTL technology, and with whom the Shoal have been fighting a secretive cold-war for centuries. With conflict occurring between rival Bandati Hives, suddenly Dakota and Lucas' knowledge of the Magi makes them valuable commodities, and they have no choice but to negotiate their way through a tangled web of treacherous alien agendas in order to find some way to protect the Human race, as the Shoal-Emissary conflict enters a new phase, and the purposes of the intelligent Magi starships become clearer, too.

Gibson's main strength, and his main interest, it seems, is in the description of aliens, and to a lesser extent, alien cultures (this was also a feature of his earlier novel, Angel Stations) - there's not the extensive and detailed development and explanation of advanced technologies that you get from Peter F. Hamilton, for example. So, to the piscine Shoal, he now adds the insectile Bandati, and the bizarrely elephantine Emissaries. He also seems to feel that he's given enough background, as there's almost none of the jumping about from past to present and back which was a major feature of Stealing Light, although he does alternate between the perspectives of Dakota, Lucas and, to a lesser extent, Trader and the other aliens. Both of the main protagonists are reasonably well-drawn, and you get a sense of their motivations and different perspectives. The aliens, though, don't seem that, well, alien in their motivations, with the possible exception of the Emissaries.

There's been some criticism of Gibson's writing style from other reviewers for being overblown, but I have to admit I didn't feel this was a problem, a bigger issue was the pacing of the story: after a slow beginning - which is not necessarily a weakness - there's an action packed centre, then events trail off, and grind to a halt, with a last flash of action at the end to whet the reader's appetite for the next volume. This can't help but make the book seem somewhat anticlimactic, and one gets the sense that more exciting developments are being saved for later. This feels a little contrived, but I'm not sufficiently annoyed to refuse to buy the next instalment out of pique.

To sum up, then, Nova War shows some of the signs of running out of steam that are a common fault with second volumes in a series, but still contains enough inventiveness to keep one's interest, and I'll be waiting to find out how Dakota's odyssey progresses.
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on 1 September 2009
Gary Gibson's 'Nova War' is the second part of the Shoal Sequence trilogy. Part One is Stealing Light. It doesn't make a lot of sense to read this without first having read Stealing Light.

It is a classic Space Opera, spanning the galaxy, leaping from spiral arm to spiral arm but, like it's predecessor, it really could have done with a bit more active editing - Gary Gibson's use of hyperbole and seriously over-the-top metaphor intrudes frequently and makes a gripping tale pretty hard going at times.

It starts slowly, if rather painfully, with the first hundred pages or so given over to the torture of our heroes Dakota Merrick and Lucas Corso by the 'Bandati', a race of winged aliens with peculiar names (such as the Proustian 'Remembrance of Things Past') - clients of the Shoal, themselves a race of strangely named fish-like aliens who possess the secret of superluminal (i.e. faster than light) travel.

Once that is out of the way, the book really gets going. It expands into not just a story of a few humans faced with aliens, but a great political struggle between factions within the Shoal, rival Hive Queens within the Bandati and the arrival of the hilariously bloodthirsty, violent and fanatical rivals of the Shoal - the Emissaries.

Behind all this is the struggle for the possession of not only the Nova bomb technology but also the search for the Magi and the Makers. So - a wonderfully complex and devious plot.

The timeline is not straightforward, as the story jumps about, filling in details from the past. In particular, we find out the origins of the thoroughly nasty Hugh Moss. And that did come as a surprise, adding to the layers of plot and sub-plot. Great stuff!

Oh but... I really wish it had been edited a bit better. After reading some phrases three times or more (for example 'whoever - or whatever' with the 'what' italicised) and coming across 'millions' and then 'billions' and then 'trillions', and the occasion bizarre and jarring metaphor, I was getting a bit fed up. But, like the first volume in the trilogy, the story is strong enough to keep you hanging in there.

Finally, the conclusion, although not a cliff-hanger, leaves you wanting more. Yes, I will be getting the third volume - I need to know how this is going to end: I need to know what happens to Dakota Merrick, I need to know what happens to the Shoal member 'Trader in Animal Faecal Matter' ('Trader' for short, thank goodness!) and to the wonderfully egregious Hugh Moss - and I need to know about the Magi and the Makers.

This book is not only a ripping space yarn but sets the scene for a (hopefully) thrilling climax. Could we just cut back on the hyperbole please?
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 September 2011
This is the second in this series, following on from Stealing Light. While this book continues the story of Corso and Dakota, some more of the backstory of Dakota, the Shoal and the earlier races becomes clearer. This is good for the continuity of the story and the series; however, I felt that there was quite a light of padding in this book - quite a lot of unnecessary descriptive digression that stole the flow of the story, and could easily have been removed from the page count without any loss to the impact of the story. A 568 page book could easily have been shorter and yet have left more of a lasting, positive impression.

The alien races are well characterised, but I keep getting left with a nagging feeling that they are fairly derivative from other books and sci-fi novels. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, the overall sense I am left with from this book, and the series so far, is `good, but not great'. That's a pity - I hope the final book in the series picks up and takes the story to a great level in its conclusion. Time will tell.
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on 28 September 2011
It's hard to write a review where so much has already been said so I won't bother saying too much now. This is book two in the Shoal Series and as such builds on from the first book, Empire of Light. The book is well written and keeps you wanting to read the next page: you just do not want to put it down. In this book, the story has moved on and we now find that the Shoal, the FTL-capable species from the first book are at war with another FTL species. There is a dark, or rather light, secret that threatens to tear the galaxy and possibly the universe apart. What will be the outcome...?
A better book than the first, but then it has more meat to the story so that helps. You would do yourself a favour if you bought this book.
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on 22 February 2010
This rather unusually improves upon the first in the series Stealing Light. The writing is sparser: there is less unecessary detail and recapitulation . There are a variety of set-piece events all of which are decently done and move the plot along, which is not always the case in this genre.
The various "political" sub-plots are all tweaked and tested at various points and Gibson has kept a grip on who is doing what to whom and why.

The direction of travel looks good for an interesting finale!
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on 14 February 2015
The first book was promising, but this second instalment kind of dropped the ball.

First, the smart, capable heroine of the series spends the first full half of the book locked in a tower, during which time the whole plot goes nowhere. After that, things pick up pace and the book becomes much more enjoyable, but it's clear there isn't enough plot to cover the page count.

Also it seems as though the author hasn't clearly worked out or defined the properties of his fictional technology - there's no apparent internal consistency and everything is simply capable or incapable of whatever the plot needs it to be at any given time. Similarly, a few of the bigger plot elements (such as the Emissaries and that one character who should've stayed dead) just seem like they were tacked on to fill the sequel rather than being part of a plan from the beginning.

Still an enjoyable read, but disappointing.
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on 12 February 2014
When you can blow up a planet its a shame not to do so.

To do it too often makes it become trivial.
And thats an issue when your main weapon in an interstellar war is blowing up suns.
The sereis does a good job of skirting the edge of the envelope - so each use is still a shock and not just a statistic.
its a difficult task that many writers cant manage. Here - its done well - without it drowning out the character actions.
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on 17 June 2013
Start halfway through & you won't be dissapointed - seriously.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series but unfortunately I found this one hard work. I felt the first half of the book could have been condensed into a couple of chapters & would have lost nothing, there is just page after page where nothing in particular happens.

Having said that the second half of the book is much more as I was expecting & far more enjoyable but in the end it was an effort rather than a pleasure to finish this book.
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on 18 February 2011
Gary Gibson's "Nova War" is an exciting, gripping space-war novel that sparkles with credible science-fiction invention.

This was the first book by Gibson that I've read. It was very enjoyable so I'll definitely be buying more.

"Nova War" is the sequel to "Stealing Light", but Gibson fill in any gaps that you might need so that it reads well as a stand-alone novel in its own right.

The plot moves along apace with plenty of excitement along the way. The story-telling hops between different scenarios relating to the main four characters, following their differing paths until they converge for the finale. This is a well established and effective story-telling technique and Gibson uses it well in the main. However, occasionally, it feels a bit cumbersome as he flips back in the plot's time-line, causing the reader to just hesitate slightly in getting to an understanding of what's going on. Thankfully, this happens rarely enough for it not to affect the overall enjoyment.

A book worthy of other luminaries of the scene, such as Alastair Reynolds.
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on 6 July 2012
The second in the trilogy. Fast paced and a cracking story but the editing leaves a lot to be desired. The mixed tenses and clumsy writing continually pulled me out of the story.
A good read but occasionally annoying.
Published by Tor, they should pull their fingers out and spend a few quid on a decent editor. I now look with suspicion on anything Tor publish.
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