Cover art: Adam Tredowski
THE DEVIL'S NEBULA
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Published: 29 May 2012 (US/CAN)/21 June 2012 (UK)
On the cover:
Ed Carew and his small ragtag crew are smugglers and ne'er-do-wells. thumbing their noses at the Expansion, the vast human hegemony extending across thousands of worlds...until the day they are caught, and offered a choice between working for the Expansion and an ignominious death. They must trespass across the domain of humanity's neighbours, the Vetch - the inscrutable alien race with whom humanity has warred, at terrible cost of life, and only recently arrived at an uneasy peace - and into uncharted space beyond, among the strange worlds of the Devil's Nebula, looking for long lost settlers.
A new evil threatens not only the Expansion itself, but the Vetch as well; in the long run, the survival of both races may depend on their ability to lay aside their differences and co-operate.
This is the first book in what is going to become a shared world universe. So apart from the story, the worldbuilding is of course important, and I'll start with a little bit about that.
Considering the length of this book, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there shouldn't really be room for much worldbuilding, but there is quite a lot of it. Brown manages to get across a lot about how this universe functions in the relatively small space he has at his disposal. And he manages to do it in a way that doesn't intrude on the narrative.
The world/universe we are presented with here is a very interesting one. It starts out as pretty much a standard Space Opera world, but it soon goes beyond that as we move into the Weird Space in the title.
We learn quite a lot of the human Expansion, a sort of empire, but not so much that there is nothing left for later volumes. And when it comes to the aliens, we get very interesting glimpses that give us enough to go on, but leaves a lot of room for further exploration. In both cases, the humans and the aliens, what we get is intriguing enough in itself to carry this novel. And it leaves the reader with an appetite for learning more about this universe.
The only little niggle I had with the worldbuilding was that there is a "lost race" thrown into the mix. But although that in itself is not necessarily very original, it was handled well. And I had no problem with it as the novel progressed, it is in fact one of the parts of this universe that I would like to know more of.
So, all in all this is a great setting for a Space Opera type Science Fiction universe. It comes across as well thought out, . With lots of details that can be expanded upon, not to mention much that is hidden, this looks to be a shared world that will be well worth following in the future.
To the story. The opening is very interesting, and I was pulled in after the first chapter. It is not long before we have had our first adventure, and from there the novel takes a turn that makes it even more interesting.
There's actually two distinct narratives here, and the second is introduced just as the first one seems to going in a familiar Space Opera adventure direction. And although it's obvious from the start that the second narrative is connected to the first, this isn't a weakness. The extra information we get fleshes out the story a great deal, and it adds to the suspense and mystery.
Mystery is the central word for this story. There's a lot of it, and it is very hard to get a grip of where the story is going. Brown offers up answers to the mysteries he presents, but frequently in such a fashion as to make them seem even greater. You get the feeling that there is much more to come as you read on, and you will not be disappointed. Not everything is answered fully, but there's satisfying answers that make this a fully formed novel. And there's a great sense of there being so many more stories left to tell, which is a great feat connected to the excellent worldbuilding.
The main characters in this novel at first seem a bit standard, but as we get to know them they become very much fully developed. There's still a feel of there not being anything groundbreaking about them, but this isn't a problem at all. They are very interesting people, and it was a joy to follow their journey.
I don't know if we will see any of them in later Weird Space volumes, but I wouldn't mind getting to know them even better. Brown is good at getting you close to his characters, and at the end it is a bit sad to be leaving them.
As a stand alone Space Opera novel, this is a nice, fast paced, adventure story with lots going for it. There's an open ended, with the possibility of sequels, ending. But we still get a full, satisfying story.
As the first novel in a shared world, this is excellent. We have enough info already to know that this is a very interesting setting, and there's enough that is hinted at around the edges of this novel, that there is the possibility of lots of interesting stories set in the same universe.
If you are a fan of Space Opera, I would highly recommend getting this novel, it is a great and quick read. And I would say it would be a great introduction to the Space opera genre for those that are not familiar with it.
NOTE: The second Weird Space novel by Eric Brown, Satan's Reach, has already been announced, and has a release date of Summer 2013.
This novel was provided to me for review by the publisher.
LINKS: Eric Brown Abaddon Books Abaddon Books Blog