BOOK REVIEW: Pariah, by Jamie Sawyer

Pariah.jpg

Publisher: Orbit

Series: The Eternity War (#1)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 439

Publication Date: 28/09/2017

Verdict: 5/5

 

The Krell war is over, but that doesn’t mean the Alliance is at peace.

A terrorist group calling themselves the Black Spiral are spreading anarchy through human space. Their leadership and end goals remain a mystery, but their attacks are growing more brazen, and the death toll is mounting.

In the wake of a devastating attack, Lieutenant Keira Jenkins and her squad of Jackals are relegated to a long-term mission near Krell space. Here they find that not everyone is happy with the terms of peace, and that the Black Spiral has agents everywhere . . .

 

Jamie Sawyer’s debut trilogy The Lazarus War is easily one of the top military sf series of the past few years. Action-packed, suspenseful, and with a great squad dynamic, it ticked all my boxes. So a sequel trilogy was a no-brainer.

Keira Jenkins was a supporting character in the original trilogy, and takes centre stage here. More human than her former commanding officer Conrad Harris, perhaps even more flawed, her story grabs you from the first page. The Jackals too are a more ragtag band than the Lazarus Legion. A politician’s daughter, a criminal serving his life sentence, and a clone are just some of the fascinating characters Jenkins has to work with.

Like so much great SF, Sawyer’s work has one great, stand-out idea: Simulant Ops. Think of them as biological drones. Enhanced clone bodies remotely controlled by human operators. The value attributed to a human life is a recurring theme in these books, shown here through Novak. Serving a life sentence, he has time knocked off for each time he ‘dies’ on a mission. it’s a fascinating concept, and Sawyer exploits it for all it’s worth.

While the focus in Pariah is on humans fighting humans, the Krell get more development too. Too say too much would be a spoiler, but if you were left wondering about the aliens after The Lazarus War, you’ll get some answers here. One thing I think is safe to mention, is the organic nature of the Krell ships. reminiscent of Wraith Hiveships from Stargate: Atlantis, but somehow even more repulsive.

Books like this live or die on their action scenes, and this is where Sawyer really shines. You can feel every injury, sense each bullet fly. While the characters are safely ensconced in their pods, you never know which Simulant is going to get bumped off next. That, together with the strategic use of flipped tables and cargo crates, gives Pariah an almost videogame-like feel to the combat scenes. Only fitting when so many people are using Jenkins’ Jackals as pawns in a larger game.

 

All in all, Pariah is a brilliant follow-up to The Lazarus War. I already have the sequel on my tbr stack, and the final volume is set for release this year. If you haven’t read anything by Jamie Sawyer yet, you need to correct that oversight. Quickly.

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