Blurb Book Review: The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy (spoilers ahead)

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Where did this image come from? Goodreads.com of course!

I’m not sure what I think of this book.

The cover is fantastic. Little sparkles dot the blackness and the extended fingerprint pattern is shiny. In the upper left corner is a pale rectangle with “A Comet Cycle Novel” inside. So this is the first book of the series. I liked the way the coloured pattern merges with the title on a backdrop of space. It’s accurate to the book in that this ninth metal, or omnimetal, merges with some humans.

The book itself was easy to hold, small enough for me to use only one hand. The binding wasn’t too tight. But I’m stalling.

I liked the author’s ability to describe the environment and the characters. Rich enough that I felt immersed throughout. The story was interesting enough: a meteor shower pummels Earth and leaves this ninth noble metal in its wake. The metal absorbs energy through kinetic force and is highly sought after. Two corporations – one that mined iron in the area and one that is trying to move into the area – fight over the land and the rights to mine this omnimetal.

That’s just the backdrop story though. This novel is more about the birth of superhumans. A boy and a man both are infused with this metal and have the ability to store up energy from destructive forces like gunshots and grenades and then propel that energy outward.

A third story exists as well. Some people are smoking and snorting the ground up metal. These addicts are called ‘metal-eaters’. Their eyes glow with the metal, they lose their hair, and they become focused on worshipping the metal. Near the end, the metal-eaters that lived on a kind of commune vanish through a gate of sorts. A gate that an addict created for the sole purpose of entering. The reader is not told where these people go.

So it’s a book with these three stories, all told fairly well. But I had to focus my attention to get through it. I was easily interrupted and didn’t mind putting the book down. This was in part because the first two thirds of the book felt like an introduction and there were enough characters that I got confused about what was going on. I suspect that if I’d read with more vigor I wouldn’t have been as confused.

I do have a couple of nitpicks. One character, Stacie, always ate sugar. She’s a peacekeeper/police officer and would offer Starburst candies to everyone. I could not, at any point, believe this to be true. I felt like the reason for her sugar addiction/intake would be explained but it wasn’t, not really. Except to say that she believed her offerings to be disarming or something. Honestly, I found it annoying. Like yes, fine, okay, sure, she’s offering candy again. And not just any candy, but Starburst. If this was a movie then I’d be certain that Starburst paid for product placement.

One line slipped past the editors but stood out to me. On page 214 a character is making a fishing fly. In between dialogue the author wrote, “With his thumb he tested the prick of the fly’s barb with his thumb.”. This author has written several novels, all of which were likely edited. How was this missed?

I’m hoping the next book in the series is a bit more engaging and holds my attention better than this one. I still recommend it, but only in passing.

Blurb Book Review: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley (spoilers ahead)

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Oh yeah, cover is from Goodreads.com

This book was recommended through Goodreads and involved aliens, so it was right up my alley. Besides, how could I say no to a cover like that? So bright and colourful 🙂

The book felt like it was going nowhere for longer than I’d prefer. The story was told in snippets and it was a bit difficult for me to keep up to what was going on. It all made sense eventually, but I could see why some may not finish the book. I enjoyed it overall though, and would read it again, especially now that I know how it all fits together.

Let’s start with the characters. Two of the three main characters run a bar/inn called Skyward Inn. Jem is human. Isley is Qita. They’re both veterans of the war between their planets. Skyward Inn is inside the walls of the Western Protectorate, which is a walled-off area that doesn’t participate in technology or politics. The Protectorate is where Devon, England is now.

The third character is Fosse, Jem’s son. Jem gave him up practically at birth to join the military. Fosse lives with his uncle Dom, who is Jem’s brother. The parent/child relationship is nonexistent. I didn’t feel like Jem had any connection at all with this person she brought into the world. I had the impression she might have liked to get to know her son better, but made little or no effort to do so. This boggled me, but I can forgive it because the author had a different story to tell.

At Skyward, people enjoy drinking Jarrowbrew. This is a concoction of Qita and helps relive memories with exquisite clarity. The story opens with Jem drinking some to relate a story of her impressions of Isley’s homeworld. As the story progresses, I had the feeling that Jem wanted more than just friendship with Isley, but the mechanics weren’t possible. Qita species isn’t really described much, except to say they’re blue-skinned and humanoid.

The war was somewhat peaceful. Qita surrendered easily and without fight. Humans thought they won, but they didn’t, not really. Qita welcomes new arrivals because they absorb them and become one big mass of organic matter. But this isn’t revealed until near the end of the book.

The hint is that three new arrivals to the Protectorate do a magic trick where they can merge hands. They lay their hands upon each other and become one. Separation is possible in the beginning stages. Humans think this is a disease. They quarantine the affected area, but there’s no stopping it. Qita don’t fight it at all. This is part of their evolution process. They merge with other species and themselves, then are separated from the whole to live again.

Memories are shared by all during this merging. Time is also a non-issue during the process. Jem begins to merge with Isley so she can experience her son Fosse’s future memories as he hikes with a Qita guide to learn about their planet. Ultimately, Jem chooses not to join the merging. There’s no expectation that anyone must join, it’s always presented as a choice. Fosse, however, struck by being the last human around after the hike with a guide, does choose to join the merging. From what I understood, all of Earth was merged as well because Qita and Earth are connected by a Kissing Gate in space. So the surrender of Qita was actually the first stage of what humans would call an invasion. By the end, humanity is mostly (or all) wiped out.

The novel left me with questions, but in a good way. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good twist (although I spoiled it here, but the title warned of that). The details were revealed in a way that felt linear and satisfying, but it was hard to get into.