Friday, April 14, 2017

Warp World Vol III: Ghost World By Kristene Perron and Joshua Simpson

Warp World Vol III: Ghost World
By Kristene Perron and Joshua Simpson

Independent, that's what I call her,” Shan said. And then, smiling, “Named her after you”
Shan, page 622

Let me start with my traditional disclaimer. Josh is a friend of mine, we met online shortly after I got back from Iraq and we've been friends for years. It has been a long time since I wrote about this series, waaaay back in 2015. So let me go over the basics. Ms. Perron is a Canadian writer who currently lives in Nelson, British Columbia with her husband. Before this she was professional stunt performer for television and film, she wrote a number of short stories and in 2010 won the Surrey International Writers Conference Storyteller Award. Joshua Simpson is a Texas native who has worked in everything from trucking to safety to pain relief therapy and has been all over the United States. Warp World is a series about Seg Eranranat, combat anthropologist, and warlord; as well as Captain Ama Kalder, ship captain, adventurer, and manic.  It details their struggle to hack out a life together across cultural divides, a slowly dying world full of bloodthirsty lunatics, and a pair of writers who delight in their pain. Let me talk about them both here.

Seg Eranranat is a raging asshole on his good days. This is due to the fact that he's a full blown genius surrounded not just by immoral idiots (who call themselves The People, because they're uncreative slaving racists), but immoral idiots who all sharpening their knives to plunge them into his back and kill him if he's lucky. Frankly if you placed me under the stress and the crowd that is normal for Seg, I would running naked through streets eating people's faces in a week. I'd also gladly leave the people of his native culture to die slow, but I'll come back to this. Seg isn't going to do that, despite the faults of his people, he's going to save them and breath life back into their dying culture... even if he has to do on top of a heap of bodies. In the first book, alone and cut off on an alien world, Seg not only engineered a massive raid but created an alliance that let him topple the ruling class of that world and walk away with his own private army. In the second book, we found out he was in more danger at home then he ever was in alien territory (which explains why he was so happy in the first book I suppose). Despite this, Seg trains his illegal army of aliens who are all considered property on his home world and leads them on a lightning assault on a rogue fortress to create his own holding in direct contravention of all the traditions and beliefs of his people. Of course, he loses Ama in the assault and believes her dead. In this the 3rd book, Seg learns a truth I had beaten into my head as a young Cpl. It ain't what you can take that matters, it's what you can hold. His fortress is free and independent, the single place in the nation of The People where there are no slaves, only free men and women. However, Seg is surrounded by enemies within and without who are jealous of his successes and not only want to topple him from power but clap a cybernetic slave implant to his neck. As his own Guild of Anthropologist suspend him and traditional allies turn their backs on him, Seg has to master challenges he never trained for on a whole new scope with the cold and sure knowledge in the back of his mind that if he fails, it means slavery or death not just for him but for the thousands of people who have decided to follow him. Alongside him are the men and women who swore allegiance in the last book, be it the eternally cranky pilot Shan, the Kenda rogue Viren (who remains a favorite of mine) and the increasingly unstable Force Commander Fismar as well as others.

Before I switch over to Ama I do want to talk a bit about the setting, the world of the People. The People live in increasingly cramped and decaying cities under shields powered by what is frankly a magic power source called Vita. Vita is created by people investing a place or object with intense cultural or religious value, like a certain stone in Mecca, or a statue in New York. It can't be something that was special to a single person but has to have been special to a group over a period of generations from what I can tell. The People don't generate Vita anymore. Their culture and society is too sterile and empty with all their energies turned to looting slaves and Vita from other societies on other worlds. The reason for this is the Storm. The storm isn't some dinky weather system with delusions of grander, this is a world ending monstrous... thing that devours all life it touches. The People have survived for generations in the face of this which is an amazing feat of engineering and stubbornness but in doing so have become stuck up parasites. Their biggest acts are creating interdimensional portals to other worlds sneaking in combat anthropologists to scope out the lay of the land and then ambush the people of those worlds and their sacred places, carrying off people to a life of wretched utter slavery and debasement in the process. They've also started turning on each like rats in a cage, life among the People is a constant struggle to watch out for people looking to fuck you over and take everything you have so they can crawl a rung higher up the ladder. It's a world where even the vast majority of the People are treated as expendable labor, given just enough to encourage them to knife each other for more while a shrinking upper class plunges into decadence and madness to avoid realizing how empty and hollow their lives and culture are. To be short, I still can't see why Seg wants to save them.

Now back to Ama, who isn't dead. Instead she wakes in a strange new society of escaped slaves who have fled the shielded and decaying cities of the People to make their own homes in the wastelands. Being escaped slaves on a planet full of technologically advanced monsters in human form who will kill you if you're lucky and living in a scarce environment where almost everything is a predator and even the food can kill you has led to a society that is constantly on the edge of extinction and as such they're a hard untrusting lot. It doesn't help that they're actually several groups from different worlds with little in common but a need to work together or die. Ama has to prove she can be a contributing member of this society and has to do it fast, additionally she has to do it while having lost her memories. This storyline introduces a bunch of new characters, such as Gelsh, the leader of the pond workers. The pond workers harvest fungus from underground ponds for food and provide one of the main food sources of the tribe. We also have T'Cri, hunter and priest who finds Ama in the wilderness and spares her upon receiving a vision. There's Chotke, a human with a shell growing out of his head and a very good climber, as well as leader of his own group of people. They all live under the domination of Mother, a woman who has taken control of the tribe and rules it with an iron fist, backed up with a group of warriors who call themselves the As Dead. The As Dead frankly could fit in with the People, referring to everyone outside of their group as animals and delighting in torture and murder. I'm not sure where they're from but I'm pretty sure I don't want to go there.

Out of the two story lines I prefered Seg's by a country mile. Ama's story-line feels repetitive compared to the last two books and is only saved by the combination of the new characters and the payoff at the end (which I'll admit is a hell of a pay off). Seg's on the other hand is new and interesting and sees him dealing with new challenges that force him to react and grow. Such as making peace with Jarrin his mentor and learning to work together with him or to do things for the sake of politics so he can make and keep allies. It's enriched with characters I've gotten know over three books so I care more about the struggle between for example Fismar and Cerd. Cerd wants to spend more time policing the keep and enforcing fair treatment between citizens. Fismar rightfully points out that you can't use an army to police people without eventually killing a fair amount of them. Meanwhile Ama's is... Oh look she's lost in a world full of people who don't like and mistrust her and must win them over with her ability and willingness to help, which will eventually get her the wrong type of attention from those in authority. I'm also frustrated by the memory loss plot point as well, the only time it works for me is if it's a mystery for me to. As it is I'm sitting there waiting for the character to learn things I already know. My last complaint is that I really would like to see what Seg and Ama can pull off together. There are a number of authors out there who seem to delight in setting up couples or groups with all sorts of possibilities if they work together and then never let it happen, instead making me meander through entire series of the group/couple being split up having to work through things alone and coming together for 5 minutes at the end. My big hope is book 4 will let me have Seg and Ama working together, which will be a new dynamic and interesting. Not to mention let them tackle whole new problems.

I like this book, but honestly it's my least favorite book of the series so far. Ama's storyline is only saved by the supporting characters like Gelsh (I'm really sad I can't see Gelsh, Viren and Fismar slamming across the multi-verse together, it would be awesome!) and the juicy, juicy payout which reveals new facts about the storm and the world. Seg's story line on the other is great to read, but I also feel a number of characters were wasted, for example we have Trinh, a high level member of another house who gets wrapped up in Seg's story line but... her character isn't given much to do and she's gone before we can really get a feel for her. So I'm left wondering what was the point of her character and her storyline? It's possible it will pay off in future books, but it kinda just sits here in this one. Additionally we're ending in a with not just one but two cliffhangers, which as always I do not approve of. All that said, I did enjoy the book, it was interesting to read and I'm left wanting to grab the next book. Warp World Vol III: Ghost World by Kristene Perron and Joshua Simpson gets a B, a good fun book but I wasn't a fan of some of the decisions made here

This review edited by Dr. Ben Allen.

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