“Ain’t one of us who’s not running from something.”
In this post-Firefly/Serenity age, there are great deal of authors embracing the whole plucky crew vs. big enemy in a cool universe idea, James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (review forth coming) is perfect example and so is Chris Wooding‘s Retribution Falls.
Set in a universe where flying ships and deamonist controlling hulking golems are the norm, Retribution Falls follows the plucky crew of the Ketty Jay, a cargo assault carrier commanded by Darien Frey as they hop from job to job until they are summoned to perform the mother lode of jobs. The job is fairly simple, pay handsomely and disillusioned Darien knows this reeks of a trap.
And, of course it is.
Once the job goes bust so do the crew’s chances of getting out of their current predicament alive since the job killed the wrong people. And soon, Darien beings showing up on the Wanted Posters while the crew burn bridges out of every single hiding place, each of them are chronicled enough in the chapters to give the world some sort of shape, Grayther Crake’s deamonist spells that controls the golem help expanded on the magic side of this world while Malvery’s medical history is pretty blase to Jez’s archeology encounter with what could be Reaver/Zombie/Flood/telepathic knock offs.
The crew as a whole are not the crisp clean stand outs like Star Trek folks, they are wounded, recovering, real people trying to survive and stay one step ahead of the Navy, the Knights and other people who want them dead. They are different enough from the Serenity crew to make them likable and the dialogue reminds you enough of Whedon to pull you in quite quickly.
The universe this book and it’s sequel The Black Lung Captain is an interesting one. Magic on one side, technology on the other. Feudal Lords trying to control everything. It’s an interesting balance. And, the only downside I saw with the ebook version was the lack of a map showing where all these ports of call existed on this one planet. I don’t know if maps appears in the physical books but it would be great to see. The technology behind everything is very steampunky and is relatively easy to follow and thankfully the use of technobabble is kept to a bare minimum. The characters don’t have phased plasma rifles but cutlasses, pistols and shotguns. Everything feels like it belongs.
The villains are given enough plot in this book to make them hissable and not just there to chew scenery. I enjoyed the fact the certain villains were going doing their jobs and turned out in the end to be able to help the crew instead of everyone being against them.
In closing the book even shows you how to play one of the made up card games called Rake which I’m sure to a card playing person it would be interesting but for me it was good to see Chris Wooding went the extra distance in showing he put the extra effort behind his creation.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Steampunk, Firefly and good dialogue then this is the book to get. I’ll review the next book in the series once I finish it.