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Book Review- Blackout by Alex Segura

BlackoutThere’s a lot of reasons why we read a series of crime fiction novels. They give us exciting action sequences, nuanced characters we root for and against (often back and forth), and moments of powerful and gritty drama. All of that is sort of the frosting on the metaphorical cake though. The real reason we read a good crime fiction series is to go on a journey. We want an identifiable character we can root for, scream at and empathize with when they fall, and stand up and cheer when they get back up and keep fighting. Alex Segura understands that. It’s why his series of novels starring private detective Pete Fernandez have been so good, and it’s why the latest, Blackout (which I just finished) could be his best one yet.

In Blackout, Segura gives us a novel of epic scope and scale. You get cults, the mob, a murder investigation that Pete interacts with at three different points in his life, political intrigues, assassinations, and a climax that takes place in the eye of a hurricane. So going back to my earlier (and perhaps tired and cliched) metaphor, the frosting on Blackout is exciting and great. But what makes all that fun stuff especially resonant is the emotional journey that’s come before and continues in this novel.

To talk in too much detail would spoil a lot of things, but I can say this is a book that offers long term payout to readers of the other books. Over the course of the story it’s clear that Pete grows. He confronts somethings and makes some realizations that makes him an even more fascinating character and makes the end of the Blackout extremely powerful.

And it’s not just Pete that’s great in this book. Over the course of the novels I’ve Seguracome to care for his friends like former FBI Agent Robert Harras. I’m especially attached his pal with a criminal past, Dave Mendoza; and his partner Kathy Bentley. The first two have some great moments in Blackout. I especially love some of the revelations we get into Dave’s past which make him even more intriguing. For me, though the truly awesome supporting character in this story is Kathy.

We’ve got to see Kathy grow too over the course of the Peter Fernandez books and she’s become amazing. In Blackout she’s insightful, tough, compassionate, and the perfect person to play Pete off of. Their dynamic together is fun and heartfelt.

So, if you haven’t read any Pete Fernandez books do yourself a favor, go back and start at the beginning. By the time you get to Blackout you’ll see you’ve been part of a truly special journey. And best of all that journey is far from over! The final pages of Blackout will have you desperately longing to see where Segura takes Pete Fernandez next.

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Categories: Book Review

Book Review-Forges of Mars Omnibus by Graham McNeill

Forges of MarsOne of the great things about the world of Warhammer 40,000 is all its fascinating factions. Its easy to think one is not for you, but like comics all it takes is the right writer to illustrate a group’s potential. For me that faction was the the Tech-Priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but then I read Graham McNeill’s Horus Heresy novel, Mechanicum. In it McNeill showed me the Admech are a fascinating group of characters and there’s a bunch of interesting stories to be told with them. So I thought I’d see what he could do with a whole trilogy of Adeptus Mechanicus novels and picked up the Forges of Mars omnibus, which contains the novels Priests of Mars, Lords of Mars, and Gods of Mars, as well as the short story Zero Day Exploit.

I got what I wanted and then some. Because Forges of Mars is full of a whole host of fascinating characters not just members of the Admech. Plus each book in the series ups the scope and scale . So Gods of Mars is a story full of grand, epic action, and character payouts.

The Forges of Mars omnibus starts out as a tale of exploration. So essentially McNeill is taking a Star Trek style story and giving it a 40K spin.His story is about an Adeptus Mechanicus expedition for a missing ship that traveled outside the known galaxy thousands of years ago. The flagship of this new expedition is a massive and ancient vessel known as the Speranza. It’s almost like a planet and much of the action in the trilogy unfolds in its labyrinthine layout. It’s a pretty fascinating locale that’s almost a character unto itself.

Walking the halls of the Speranza are a diverse group of Adeptus Mechanicus tech-priests. First and foremost is of course the expedition leader, Lexell Kotov. He’s surrounded himself with a number cold and career focused tech-priests like Tarkis Blaylock. What’s great about those characters though is how nuanced they are. Over the course of the trilogy you get moments that show them at their worst, but they also get genuine moments of heroism and altruism. Plus there are some very noble, grounded, and easy to like tech-priests like the father and daughter team of Vitali and Linya Tychon. Their noble nature and genuine affection for each other made them some of my favorite characters in the trilogy.

The nature of the Kotov expedition allows McNeill to expand the cast of Forges of Graham McNeillMars beyond tech-priests and include diverse characters from all over the Imperium of Man. Accompanying the expedition are a band of Black Templar Space Marines, a detachment of valiant soldiers from Cadia, a Legion of Titan war machines and their pilots, a Rogue Trader and his crew, and several normal humans press ganged into being bondsmen aboard the Speranza. But that’s not all! There’s also a crew of Eldar pursuing the Speranza.

As the Forges of Mars trilogy unfolds were allowed to spend time with all of these characters and see things from their perspective. So I really came to care about almost all of them. It heightened all the action scenes and made the climax of the trilogy incredibly enjoyable. There was so much payoff. The character arcs I probably enjoyed the most were the ones of Linya Tychon; Rogue Trade Roboute Surcouf who hails from the Ultramar system which means he’s kind of like James T Kirk mixed with the nobility of Steve Rogers; and Black Templar sergeant Tanna, who really goes on a journey of growth over the course of the trilogy.

I also have to mention that McNeill may have opened my eyes to the appeal of the Eldar. They are another faction that have popped up throughout theĀ  40K novels I’ve read that I really haven’t found all that appealing. In Forges of Mars, McNeill points out how the Eldar are a damned race thanks to their creation of the Chaos God Slaanesh, but they’ve decided to sort of go down swinging and fighting against their fate. That made me see them in an entirely new light. So I may have to seek out some Eldar novels.

I don’t want to say too much about the action of the Forges of Mars trilogy because a lot of of it is shrouded in mystery with some great reveals. What I will say is the story takes readers to pretty fantastic locales like alien planets, a seemingly deserted space station, and a mysterious Forge World. McNeill also has a lot of fun with the tone of the trilogy as well. You get moments of grand adventure, character drama, cosmic horror, and over the top action. The climax of the book is an epic struggle to save the entire universe and features a number of wildly imaginative and gloriously trippy sequences.

All of that makes Forges of Mars an incredible and epic read. For me, its one of those grand trilogies that reflects all the reasons why I love the 40K universe. It’s right up there with Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn trilogy and Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Night Lords trilogy. It’s that good! I was already a fan of McNeill before reading this Omnibus, but now he’s one of my favorite Black Library authors.