The author kindly sent me all three of the series and I read them all before posting the reviews as often I find that often series turn out to be serials where they run into each other and you need to read all of them. In this case there is no such problem although the series contains references to the other books they read well as complete stand-alone books, after reading them all the more I thought that they did not need to be a series as there was little relationship between the individual books. The series are;-
The third in the series "Vanguard of Man" is similar to the first "Worldship Praxis" and although again set on a vast colony ship set in a later time period and not related to the first book spends more time on the character development of the "captain" who is one of the few remaining "Vanguard" almost superhuman people who have survived an earlier plague and have also been given nano technology to further enhance their abilities. There are also the "New-borns" a similar development but with less human thought processes. Again an interesting book with some short references to the "Shadow of worlds" book but again really a stand-alone.
Having been an avid science fiction fan for over forty years I am always on the lookout for new authors and original ideas; these days there are a plethora of the former and a dismal lack of the latter. I was not familiar with JD’s other published work but when I was offered a free audio download in return for an honest and unbiased review I was happy to accept since I probably would have turned down a print or electronic copy as I don’t get much time to read but I listen to music all day while working on my own.
Vanguard of Man is the author’s third science fiction novel and chronicles the mankind’s diaspora from Earth across the galaxy. Following the collapse of the world economy and a series of cataclysmic events and a plague or two, the planet is no longer capable of supporting even the much reduced human population so, in parallel with cryogenic research, a programme to develop genetically engineered super human ‘Vanguards’ is instigated. These hyper intelligent, immortal and practically invulnerable beings will man the giant seed ships the will take the millions of sleeping humans on a centuries long voyage to a new homes amongst the stars.
That is the general gist. The presentation is somewhat old-school, almost Azimovian without the grand master’s élan and distinctly derivative; there is more than a passing nod to Meaney’s Ragnarok cycle with some slightly clunky references to Brinn’s Uplift, Reynolds’ current panspermian premise and even Stargate. The near future apocalypse narrative is annoyingly America-centric and there is generally frequent repetition, a lot of sentences ending in a preposition, many ‘off of’s (grrrr…). Interestingly, I found these latter grammatical points less irritating in the audio-book format that I would have in printed form.
However, notwithstanding the above, there is a lot which deserves credit. The story is a neat blend of speculative near future sci-fi with standard space opera and the beloved old seed ship themes while the original Vanguards and their newborn cousins add an innovative spice. The simple linear narrative bowls along at a decent pace and the dialogue, while a little naïve, harks back to an earlier style and there are occasional sparks of wit. The science is all tried and tested sci-fi fare with space elevators, Bussard collectors & solar sails and there has evidently been a creditable degree of research into the astronomical elements. Thankfully there is no mind boggling esoteric physics or mathematics with which to confound the reader.
To summarise, I generally rather enjoyed ‘Vanguard of Man’ where an original reworking of familiar themes is only slightly marred (for me, a very old-school Englishman) by school-boy grammar and, I suppose, culturally unavoidable Americanisms.
I read this book not realising that it was the latest in a series of three novels. Again, as I always seem to do things back to front, I then noticed that another reviewer had also written that he thought it worked fine as a stand-alone novel. I say this because I wouldn't want readers to feel that they had to the read the previous two books first. In my opinion, this works great on its own.
Now more about the book. The first thing that struck me was the level of detail, and the quite mind-blowing story-line. Many other science fiction books that I have come across tend to follow the same script. Not so with 'Vanguard of Man'; the plot and characters are totally unique, which is no easy feat in what is rather a saturated genre. I thought the book was well written (I did notice the odd typo, so it could perhaps benefit from a little bit of editing), however, it wasn't the quality of the writing that led me to read on, it was the author's amazing imagination; I would love to see this novel on the big screen.
All in all, this book is a must-read for fans of science fiction. It begins with a global financial collapse, which is frighteningly believable, and ends with.........well I'll leave that up to you to find out. Riveting and thought provoking; this author is definitely one to watch.
'Vanguard of Man' is an interesting sci-fi novel. Earth has been destroyed by natural disasters and nuclear conflicts. To survive, the human race has to search for different planets resembling Earth. Enki, a Vanguard (the result of integration and fusion between a man once named Eric Hamilton and nanobots), the main protagonist of the story, has to guide and lead "Relentless", a space colony ship. During the space trip Enki completes his metamorphosis and discovers that he can become something very different from a simple cyborg or immortal entity...a god! Highly recommended for fans of Sci-Fi.