Ninth City Burning
J. Patrick Black
Even if you haven’t read deeply into the sci-fi, with a splash of fantasy, genre, you’ll certainly recognize some very prominent influences in Black’s debut take on multidimensional warfare, among them Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, down to Heinlein-like expressions of individualism and iconoclastic behavior within a rigid hierarchical society. Here, too, bugs (known as Romeo and the Valentines, for a reason readers will be left to learn for themselves) of superior intelligence are the faceless enemy, and they do strike you as monolithic. Also, while Black’s language can be complex and his fantastical twisting of physics and telekinesis can tend to be a bit dizzying, though always fascinating and quite inventive, overall the novel has the feel of YA, not the least because his characters for the most part are children and older adolescents.
As for adventure and action, you’ll find yourself waiting and wading through lots of explanation before any makes its appearance. For the most part, the novel devotes much of its time to painting a picture of Earth 500 years from today in the grips of war fought across more than a ten dimensions with the fate of humankind wobbling on the brink of extinction. Readers follow the exploits of children Jax and Naomi and teens Rae and Torro as they learn about the true nature of the world and are integrated into what amounts to a militaristic society focused solely on war of self-preservation. Tossed into the mix are other adolescent characters, particularly Kizabel, a young, irreverent, individualistic, and brilliant inventor, and Vinneas, a smart and smart-aleck prescient strategist.
If, at the start, you find the situation and characters interesting and identifiable, you’ll probably racing through to the end. If not, you’ll find the going a slog. For the most devoted, and those who want to get in on the ground floor of a trilogy, as the ending seems to indicate there’s more to come. w/c