BOOK REVIEW: Dominion, by Jamie Sawyer

-spoilers for the Lazarus War trilogy, Pariah, and Exodus

dominion.jpg

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Military SF

Series: The Eternity War (#3)

Pages: 451

Publication Date: 28/11/2019

Rating: 5/5

 

The Black Spiral have played their hand. As a deadly virus ravages Krell space, threatening to reignite the flames of war, Keira Jenkins and her team of Jackals find themselves once more on the frontlines. Humanity’s only hope is to track down an ancient race known as the Aeon. But the Black Spiral are everywhere, and the time of Dominion is coming . . .

As with the Lazarus War before it, Jamie Sawyer’s Eternity War trilogy puts him firmly at the forefront of modern military SF. Through both trilogies, he’s taken us through the brutal worlds of a Galaxy at war. But while the Lazarus War was a fairly black-and-white case of humans against aliens, this second trilogy shows the dark greys of the war. Shadow operations and terrorism are the order of the day here, and Sawyer is clearly having fun with his world.

Sawyer’s most innovative creation is of course the Simulant Operations project. Humans remotely piloting enhanced clones bodies to run suicide missions and against-the-odds battles. But while previous volumes have focused on the strength and resilience of these clones, and the use to which they can be put, a recurring theme in Dominion is the vulnerability of the operator while their mind is elsewhere. We’ve seen before how the operator is an easy target while their natural body is separated to their mind, and it’s something we see again here. As with all the best technological flaws in SF, it’s one our characters adapt to, even if they can’t yet overcome it.

By now the characters will be familiar to readers. Jenkins herself is again our narrator, and we follow her journey from loyal soldier to someone with more than a few doubts about the morality of her mission. Zero, Feng, Lopez and Novak are all back in action, as is Pariah, the one good Krell. Pariah in particular gets a larger role in this book, proving a valuable asset in the squad’s assaults and investigations of Krell technology. The mental bond between Pariah and Jenkins is developed further, going to some truly unexpected places. Also returning is Daneb Riggs, Jenkins’ former lover and now traitor to the Alliance. The grudge between the ex-lovers drives much of the novel, offering a more personal stake than you find in a lot of military SF.

As always, Sawyer’s writing is fluid and engaging, and his action sequences among the best in the field. Outside of first-person shooters, I can’t think of anywhere else that captures the rush and danger of battle so well. Even when they can just extract to their real bodies, there’s a sense of threat to every battle Jenkins’ Jackals run into. When they are out of their Simulants, as they are more often than previous volumes, that danger is only heightened. Sawyer’s prose cuts straight to the heart of the action, making it hard to put the book down.

The end of the second trilogy is naturally a conclusive one. Yet there is enough left dangling that more stories can easily be told in the setting. Whether Sawyer continues the story of the Simulant Operations or ventures into new territory, I’ll certainly be in line to read it.

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