Judas Unchained

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In the future, humankind travels by wormholes and expands outward into the galaxy. This is a future humanity that is familiar: it reminds me of The Fifth Element universe. So despite amazing advances in technology (people can be cloned and their memory stored and so are effectively living for ever; starships go faster than the speed of light), human society is reassuringly familiar. Scarcity, exploitation, money and power – still around in force. The power of a handful of corporations equal (or supersede) that of the centralised government, known as the  Commonwealth.

Due to events in the preceding book, which I haven’t bothered to read, the Commonwealth is under attack from without – an invasion from a ruthless ant-like species – and from within by a mysterious actor known as the ‘Starflyer.’ It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect.

This book was a change of pace for me. While massive at 1200 pages, it was light reading; great value at $3. It’s an entertaining space opera. Wing Commander meets Blade Runner meets Starship Troopers. Thrill at one-dimensional characters grinding through the plot. There is a Howard Hughes; a Jeff Goldblum-in-Independence Day; a super sleuth, a sexy reporter, some typical politicians, a typical teenager, and a whole cast that standout by how similar they all seem to be in their thoughts and actions.

Don’t get me wrong, the plot has some nice twists and some of the set-pieces are cleaver and original (but this being sci-fi, one comes to expect this). You spend a lot of time with characters which are totally uninteresting or cliche; they inexplicably come to the fore, while many interesting, or at least un-cliche characters seem to fade into the background. It all seems to depend on the needs of the plot.

This is a far cry from sci-fi at its best, yet throughly enjoyable. The Battlestar Galactica reboot comes to mind as a much better spend-of-time.

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