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3.7 out of 5 stars
Satan's Reach (Weird Space)
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on 15 March 2017
Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily trickier as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. Brown evokes a vivid range of worlds with differing climates, customs and lifestyles in amongst the mayhem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also liked the very efficient and adaptable spaceship Den has managed to snag for himself.

Initially, I thought it was all a bit too good to be true, but Brown manages to nicely weave into the storyline the reason why said ship is quite so nifty and needless to say, it all ends in tears… I liked the fact that Den’s gift of telepathy comes at a terrible price – he finds it painful to mindread, particularly alien minds so spends most of his time heavily shielded. He is also rather withdrawn, preferring his own company, which I found entirely plausible.

The story development is excellent – just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did so that I read far later into the night when I should have put the book down and got some sleep. Any niggles – I could have done without the romantic element as I thought it out of character for both the protagonists concerned. But as there are two more books in this series, I’m guessing it isn’t all going to run smoothly from hereon in.

Overall, a cracking read from a writer who really knows his craft and if you like your space opera with plenty of excitement and enjoyable worlds, then this one is recommended.
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on 6 August 2013
Weird Space is the shared universe Eric Brown created for Abaddon Books so they could add a Space Opera setting to their impressive collection of on-going series. While The Devil's Nebula set the scene, introduced the Weird, and gave little tidbits of background information, Satan's Reach takes many of these aspects and runs with them. Admittedly I was expecting something very different to what I read within the pages of Satan's Reach, but I eventually understood my reaction and how I had subconsciously skewed my expectations.

Den Harper is a runaway telepath now trading outside of the human controlled Expansion in Satan's Reach. It is here that he makes his living, taking jobs throughout that region of space and making ends meet. With only the ship - along with its AI Judi - he stole when he fled the Expansion, Harper lives a lonely life with much in his past that he has tried to leave behind. But when a trade goes wrong on the planet of Ajanta he ends up escaping with his life, and with a new companion, Zeela, that he rescues from the clutches of the planets inhabitants. As he tries to decide what to do with her, he discovers that the Expansion are once again on his trial and determined to track him down. With both the bounty hunters and the Ajantans after him he must decide where to go, and just how he can escape their seemingly obsessive need to catch him.

I mentioned earlier that Satan's Reach was not the book I expected. Truth be told, I expected more of a sequel to The Devil's Nebula, but that is not the case. The events depicted in The Devil's Nebula with the discovery of the Weird play a large role in the bigger picture, but not quite in the story. Those that have read the Devil's Nebula will know that the Weird are invading both human and Vetch space, and the seemingly empty ships discovered on planets by both species were host to parasites sent out by the Weird in an attempt to infiltrate the governments of both cultures. However, telepaths can spot these parasites in the minds of the infected, even when the infected don't know it themselves. It is this dire need to dig out the infected that leads the Expansion to start tracking down missing telepaths, hence that mission that Janaker and Kreller are sent on to apprehend Den Harper.

Okay, there's a little background for you to see the overall picture in the universe of Weird Space. Now, on to Satan's Reach with some more detailed thoughts.

What I described above is known to the reader in Satan's Reach, but, other than the plot thread following the bounty hunters, it is not an aspect touched on for most of the novel. What we have here is a stand-alone story that fits into this setting. Den Harper goes about his business none the wiser about the danger to humanity, dealing and running from dangerous aliens that will stop at nothing to get their hands on Zeela. The bounty hunters add the more wide-reaching aspect, but it doesn't disrupt the story that Brown is telling about this runaway telepath.

Harper is an interesting character. He lives alone on his ship with the controlling AI, Judi. They have an easy relationship more like crew members than anything else, and it adds extra depth to his history. When Zeela joins him after the rescue on Ajanta things are shaken up a little. We slowly learn more about Harper and his past, the reason he is on the run, and the circumstances surrounding it all. There are additional aspects that play a larger role, but they were perhaps underplayed until they were really needed.

One of the other things I enjoyed most in Satan's Reach was the bounty hunter team of Janaker, a human with clear issues, and Kreller, a Vetch. While the Vetch made a brief appearance in The Devil's Nebula, nothing much else was explained about them, with just some comments here and there. In Satan's Reach we have a Vetch as part of the story, and despite Kreller being the only member of his species to show his face, it was a joy to read his scenes. Not only did Brown create an interesting race and character, the pairing of Janaker and Kreller provided plenty of background and detail without obviously doing so. I'll be looking forward to see what else can be done in the future with the Vetch.

As for the Weird, well... as I mentioned, they're part of the bigger picture, yet the threat they pose only comes to the fore towards the end of the novel. When it happens it feels like Harper's story finally slots into this big threat, and the revelations that take place certainly make for a gripping and exciting finale. I perhaps would have liked to have seen more of the Weird threat present in Satan's Reach, but I'm holding out hope that a future novel will continue the story of the characters we've met here - it would be a shame not to.

And all this brings me back to my thoughts on Satan's Reach as a whole. Firstly, let me say that I enjoyed it a great deal, but I'm not sure how successful it is in continuing the shared world setting. Without a doubt it uses the setting to its advantage, but it occasionally comes across as a novel that isn't quite sure what it is. This is, perhaps, simply my view of the novel due to my relative lack of experience in shared world reading. It could also be that these are the sort of novels that need to be written early on to build a successful setting. Either way I'll be tuning in for the next Weird Space instalment.
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on 27 January 2014
Having read a previous Eric Brown book ( Engineman), I expected a lot more from him than this. I note that Engineman was one of his earliest books, and judging from this he has run out of creative steam. This book, second in the "Weird Space" series, borrows heavily, in my opinion from Star Wars and Peter Hamilton. OK, I guess it is almost impossible to write a Sci Fi novel these days that is totally original, but this book- with its hero very similar to Han Solo, visiting Space Ports, drinking in bars full of aliens, all rather old hat. But one could forgive this if the book was better crafted. For example the hero: taller than most people, a telepath who needed software to augment his psi-powers and now needs a "booster" of sorts he must put on to actually use his powers. Picture the scene: he is being hunted by bounty hunters ( where have we heard this before?) and is sitting on a balcony cafe across the street from where they are staying. Oh dear, they leave their hotel and actually come into the cafe and sit next to him. And astounding as it may seem, they recognise him . . . Come on Eric, you have proved you can do better than this.
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on 20 August 2013
I'm so tired of gloomy, gritty SF with nebulous writing and characters you can't possibly like.I love Eric Brown style, his fast-paced action and his interesting characters you can relate to. I liked his world building and the criso dialogue! the story so far is interesting, i long to see the next chapter!
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on 2 December 2013
Satan's Reach is the second book set in the shared world of the Weird Space, a property developed by Eric Brown for Abaddon Books. Being rather unfamiliar with shared worlds, especially in book form, I was curious to see what it would be like to move away from that first story told in The Devil's Nebula and start all over with new characters in a new place. Would we see more of the protagonists in the first book? Would what happened there impact the story much? The answers to both questions would be yes and no. We do see Carew and crew and the events from The Devil's Nebula certainly impact Den Harper's story in Satan's Reach, but we don't meet up with Carew until almost at the end of the book and the influence on Harper's story is indirect at best. But knowing the events from the first book makes for a richer reading experience, plus it is fun to spot things we know the background for.

As a story, Satan's Reach stands alone quite well and can certainly serve as an entry point into the universe. The story stars Den Harper, a telepath on the run from the Expansion, who's made his living as a trader in the section of space called Satan's Reach. He's an interesting fellow and I liked the way telepathy works in this universe: it's a skill that has to be activated in those that have it the capacity for it through an operation and it needs an external device, a ferronnière, to allow the telepaths to actually be able to read people. What I liked about this limitation is that it makes reading someone's mind becomes a conscious decision, not something that can happen by accident. A fact Brown uses to great effect in his development of Harper's character and of the relationship between him and Zeela Antarivo, the orphan girl he rescues from a set of nasty frog-like aliens. Brown manages to give us a pretty thoroughly rounded character in Harper, with his history filled in and his desires made plain, he's far more complex than the 281 pages of the book would seem to allow for. Then again, this shouldn't be surprising as its often Brown's characters that draw me most to his work.

While I liked Zeela as a character, I found her falling in love with Harper as quickly as she does one of the weak points of the novel. Even if she's following the classic "fall in love with your saviour"-trope and going through the horror Brown puts them through together would naturally create a bond, I still thought it was too easy on her part. It's only Harper's atrocious past when it comes to love that puts the brakes on anything happening between them for a while. She made up for this in spades with her spunk and resilience though. I loved that even when she frightened out of her mind, she doesn't freeze, but takes action, sometimes unexpectedly effective action at that.

Harper and Zeela face two separate sets of antagonists, one set is comprised of the Ajantans, the aliens set on retrieving Zeela, and the other of a couple of bounty hunters sent to bring Harper back to the Expansion. I especially liked this last set of characters: a human bounty hunter, Sharl Janaker, and the Vetch companion imposed on her by her Expansion employers, called Helsh Kreller. Janaker is an interesting window through which to show the reader more about the Vetch - the alien race that has been in conflict with the human Expansion for eons - as she carries all the prejudices about them over into her observations of Kreller. What is refreshing is that she is at times surprised by his reactions and his conduct in a positive way and that while she never comes to like him, she does respect him.

Once all parties come together after a race through space, there are some major revelations and twists that I hadn't expected or seen coming and they create an elegant hook for more stories set in this universe. It'll be interesting to see whether the next Weird Space book will again be written by Brown or if another writer will tell us his tale set in Weird Space. Either way, I quite enjoyed Satan's Reach and I'm keen to see where the story will go and to learn more about the Weird and the battle against them.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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on 11 December 2013
I like Eric Brown's style of writing. Not too heavy, fast moving, and, on the whole, entertaining throughout. Comparing his style to, say, Banks or Hamilton is like comparing Dune to Dr Who. Both entertaining in their own way but Brown requires less of your intellectual time and commitment. That's not to say his books are less intellectual, merely that he gets the job done in under 300 pages, whereas other authors can take double (or more) that length telling the same story. Obviously to do this he skimps in some areas where others would elaborate and embellish. Sometimes his characters could do with a bit more filling out but, in the main, his books are a quick, easy and entertaining read.

Having said that, I don't think the two books (Satans Reach and Devils Nebula) are quite as good as some of his others (Helix and the Bengal Station trio of Necropath, Xenopath and Cosmopath to name a few).

What I am disappointed about, however, is the news that Eric Brown is not actually planning to do any more in this series. Instead, he has merely created the universe in which other writers will continue his ideas. This may explain why they are not quite as good, as he has nothing invested in ensuring the trilogy (if that's what it is) plays out to the end .

While this may be, in theory, a good idea by Abaddon Books (the publishers), I am not too sure if this idea will sell books. When I bought these two books it was with the thought that there would be a third in the not too distant future from the same author. If I had known that he was merely to start the series and someone else was going to finish it then perhaps I would have thought again. After all, it was only his earlier books that persuaded me to buy these. When I am buying the first in a trilogy/series from the likes of Hamilton, Asher or Reynolds I expect that author to finish the series and not leave it hanging. The next time Eric Brown starts on a trilogy/series I will probably wait until all the books in the series have been written before I buy.

Despite searching through both Abaddon's and Eric Brown's websites, plus a few connected blogs, I can find no news whatsoever on the next book in the 'trilogy' (if there is one), and who, if anyone, is writing it, which is very disappointing.
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2013
To be honest this was a bit of a weird book for me (which is quite ironic considering that its book 2 of the Weird Space series) as to be honest it felt to a certain degree like a roleplay game playing by the numbers with our principle hero feeling like the archetypal Space Smuggler.

The story is fascinating and whilst fun does feel a little simplified over what it could have been (whether this is because it's a general setting for other authors to write in this world I'm not sure.) Don't get me wrong it is a solid enough book and there is a lot of scope for other things to happen but overall when you look at the plot line for what it is, it's a fairly straight line with no real twists. All round a bit of fun to sit down with but overall, not the authors best to date.
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