Bear Head (Dogs of War #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My Five Word TL:DR Review: Futuristic drama with political shenanigans

BearHeadBear Head is the second book in the Dogs of War series by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Two small provisos before starting this review.  First, Do I think this can be read as a standalone?  Yes, I’m confident that readers could pick this up without having read the first.  Of course, having thoroughly enjoyed Dogs of War I obviously recommend you read it as it will provide a deeper strength of feeling for the characters who appear here.  Second, if you are intending to read Dogs of War then you should probably avoid this review as it will contain spoilers (I do of course try to avoid spoilers but just seeing certain names appearing in a second instalment can sometimes give away plot points for the first book).  So, you have been warned.

Space: the final frontier.  Bear Head jumps forward by a few years following the conclusion of Dogs of War and we follow a new character named Jimmy.  Jimmy was wowed by the thoughts of getting off earth and having a fresh start and jumped at the chance of a job on Mars. A few genetic modifications and a little space travel later and Jimmy is working on a new project – the building of a city (fondly known as Hell City), set in a crater covered with a silk membrane (that will eventually lead to a more livable atmosphere.  Of course, the grass isn’t always greener and building luxurious accommodations for the elite is not quite as glamorous as living in them.  Jimmy is at the bottom of the food chain.  He’s trapped really, underpaid, overworked and has fallen into a few money pits.  In desperation he turns to a last resort and this is when he ends up with a different personality inside his head, talking to him, nay arguing with him, and in fact exerting some firm control.

I enjoyed Bear Head. It’s a little crazy at times, it can also be a bunch of fun with Jimmy and his ‘head’ passenger exchanging some amusing banter as they wrestle for control.  It’s also quite shocking and a little sad at times but still manages to give off a message of hope.

Following Dogs of War the rights of bio-engineered animals are once again coming under threat.  Some people think they should be collared and controlled whilst others actively speak out against such measures.  Honey (a modified Bear from book No.1) is now something of a celebrity.  She’s intelligent and frequently invited to public events and functions however, she soon realises that her status is little more than a sham.  On the face of it she has a good life but scratch the surface and she’s really little more than a performing bear who is rolled out as the occasion warrants to demonstrate ‘good behaviour’.  She becomes very aware of this the moment she actually speaks her mind and draws some very unwelcome attention.

Now, as the story begins there is a little jumping back and forth between Mars and Earth and also a slight disparity with the timeline but eventually things escalate and the two storylines come together.

Jimmy and Honey are the central characters and then there are various others split between the two locations.  Back on Earth we have a corrupt politician called Thompson who is very interested in mind control and we follow his story which involves his assistant and the doctor he regularly meets with – I’m not going to lie, this particular thread can be decidedly unpleasant, probably made more so because without the very thin veil it wears it’s rather uncomfortably close to the current political climate.  I don’t mention this as a negative, just to alert readers more than anything else.  On Mars the characters are Jimmy, Honey. a self-styled ‘gangster’ called Sugar and her two modified bears, a bunch of people on the periphery and also ‘Bees’.  Now if you’ve read Dogs of War you’ll know exactly who that character is and you’ll also probably be jumping for joy.  I won’t spoil the fun though.  You can discover about Bees for yourself.

I won’t elaborate too much on setting.  We have the earth setting, which very much revolves around the political situation and the way things escalate dramatically and of course the Red Planet.  Thankfully the author writes this as a fairly small, self contained city and it’s tight confines and almost claustrophobic feel are easy to imagine and to work with in terms of the scope of the story.

I wasn’t expecting to read more from this particular world and so it was a lovely surprise to find a second instalment that returned me to a few of the characters I’d already formed attachments to. This is a fairly fast paced story from an author that I always enjoy.  I must say that Tchaikovsky can really pull on the heart strings and he has this talent to describe a situation so well and yet in such an easy manner that the scene just springs to life.  This is also a story that takes the opportunity to look at some deep issues (exploitation, oppression and illegal experimentation to name but a few).  Plenty of food for thought here and a book that definitely left me with much to think about.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 stars

December Countdown, Day 4 : Presents

December book meme (details here). Presents : A book that you enjoyed more than you expected to:

Dogsofwar

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Bear Head (Dogs of War #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Bear Head (Dogs of War #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky – I loved book No.1.  My review is here.  And, here’s the description and cover for No.2:

BearHeadMars. The red planet. A new frontier for humanity, a civilization where humans can live in peace, lord and master of all they survey.

But this isn’t Space City from those old science-fiction books. We live in Hell City, built into and from a huge subcontinent-sized crater. There’s a big silk canopy over it, feeding out atmosphere as we generate it, little by little, until we can breathe the air.

It’s a perfect place to live, if you actually want to live on Mars. I guess at some point I had actually wanted to live on Mars, because here I am. The money was supposed to be good, and how else was a working Joe like me supposed to get off-planet exactly? But I remember the videos they showed us – guys, not even in suits, watching robots and bees and Bioforms doing all the work – and they didn’t quite get it right…

Expected publication : January 2021

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

cageofsoulsThe Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

Due for publication April 2019

Redemption’s Blade: After The War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

redemptionOkay, here it is – I’ve written and deleted this review about three times and I’m still just as conflicted and frustrated with myself now as I was at the start so here it is: my feelings on Redemption’s Blade are a bit mixed.  I can’t deny it was an easy read, I love the writing style of Adrian Tchaikovsky and if this turns out to be the start in a series of adventures by this motley crew then I can definitely say I’d like to pick up more from the world of Celestaine and her sidekicks.

Redemption’s Blade comes after all the horrific events that usually take place in a novel have come to an end and the tyrant ruler has been killed or overthrown.  I really like this as an idea because it gives us a chance to see what happens next and there’s certainly plenty of food for thought contained within these pages.

The world here has suffered greatly with huge swathes of land now being uninhabitable.  On top of that tensions, prejudice, fear and hate are par for the course. Regardless of ‘side’ everybody suffered during the reign of the Kinslayer and the bloodshed and loss have created an ugly atmosphere where the need for revenge is barely kept in check and on top of that, travel too far into the wilderness and some people still think the war is going on.  I loved the world created here.  I guess there’s an expectation that when you kill the tyrant everyone goes back to their lives again but in actual fact a lot of those lives have been destroyed or left in tatters.

In terms of the characters we follow Celestaine.  Slayer of the Kinslayer she can barely enter a town without being immediately recognised and revered.  Although, travelling with two Yorughan as companions (the former enemy) usually puts something of a dampener on the over enthusiastic displays of anyone she encounters.  Celeste is a conflicted character.  Known as the hero of the war she suffers from the guilt of knowing that the victory was anything but single handed, I guess she’s experiencing a form of ‘impostor’ syndrome coupled with a crisis of identity as a hero in a world where there is no longer a need for heroics.  Her companions are two Yorughan.  Creations of the Kinslayer these are huge creatures, strong and with keen eyesight as a result of many years spent in the bowels of the earth.  These two are interesting characters and are a great demonstration of the fact that war is sometimes just purely a matter of unhappy chance.  They and the rest of their race were manipulated by the Kinslayer and made to fight, dissenters were tortured or killed.  There are other characters who come into play along the way but I won’t mention them here and there’s also a storyline with two collectors who seem to be seeking the same magical artefact that Celeste is in search of.

The plot is fairly simple in nature and involves a quest.  Celeste, in an attempt to find new meaning to her life, is trying to put to rights some of the atrocities committed by the Kinslayer, one of which was the almost annihilation of the Aethani race and the mutilation of those that survived.

In terms of my overall feelings.  I felt to an extent that the plot suffered a little.  In real terms this isn’t an epic adventure to save the world and yet there feels like there’s an identity crisis going on wherein the story wants to be more than it should or more than I expected (I suppose more to the point).  I think I was anticipating a smaller more concentrated focus but it felt like Celeste and her companions went from one near death situation to the next and to be honest it started to feel like a continuous loop.  I think I reached a point where I didn’t feel tension or fear on behalf of the characters.  Having given this plenty of thought, the real issue for me is that my expectations had headed in a different direction than the story took and it took me a little while to come to terms with that.

All that being said, I like this author and his prose brings the world and the characters to life in a way that feels deceptively easy.  He handles descriptions well and manages to avoid the trap of over egging the pudding or turning the story into a history lesson.  I thought there was a lot of food for thought here about war in general, the winners and the losers and their motivations.  The blood fuelled hatred that survives long after the enemy has been destroyed, stoked by a need for revenge and conflicted characters who now question their own actions and the reasons behind them.  I think this could be a really entertaining series where Celeste and her team travel from place to place putting wrongs to right – I’m not sure if that is the intention but I certainly hope so and I would pick up more books to check out what comes next.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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