Blindspace by Jeremy Szal (book review).

December 7, 2021 | By | Reply More

Jeremy Szal’s action-packed debut novel ‘Stormblood’ exploded onto the scene last year, introducing us to alien-DNA-infected, ex-soldier Vakov Fukasawa. After agreeing once more to work for the interstellar government known as Harmony to track down the drug dealers spreading the same stormtech drug that was used to turn him into a killing machine, Vakov finds himself at the beginning of ‘Blindspace’ facing a huge and complex conspiracy involving drug cartels, cultists, deep space pirates and smugglers.

Launching straight into the action, the book never slows down the pace throughout its 650 pages, except for the occasional drink in a bar. Raids, chases, battles, infiltration, it’s a seemingly never-ending war of attrition against a range of implacable foes. There’s a fabulous selection of alien species, organisations and alliances, security forces of different kinds, locations and cultures. It’s a whirlwind tour of the depths of Jeremy Szal’s imagination.

Vakov Fukasawa is a tortured character who has faced battle, capture and torture and is infected with stormblood that threatens to ruin his self-control and bring him down into a ruined state of addiction. Flashbacks give us more of his personal history with his imprisoned, traitorous brother Artyom, explaining the choices that led to his military career and helping to explain his tortured, explosive character. Throughout the book, he struggles with his relationships, whether visiting his brother in prison or attempting to forge a bind with his new team. All of them also come from varied backgrounds with dark and conflicting pasts, each of which brings a challenge to their unity. Valov constantly messes up his interactions, making and breaking the trust of his companions, keeping secrets, having arguments and attempting to make amends. His emotional journey is almost as explosive as his military one.

As with the first novel, much of the action takes place within the enormous, hollowed-out asteroid city Compass, home to half a billion and the seat of the Harmony government. It’s a place beyond comprehension, full of immense caverns, enormous cities, hidden spaceports, smugglers’ highways, vast transit systems and a chaotic melange of cultures. Never does Jeremy Szal pull out to give us an overview, but we always stick with Vakov’s viewpoint, wherein everything is sprawling, complex and incomprehensibly hectic. This gives the novel an air of alternating claustrophobia and vertiginousness.

By the midpoint of the book, I was beginning to feel exhausted. There is only so much fighting, injury and trauma a character and a readercan go through. The enemies are so powerful and numerous, the drug dealers and criminals so ubiquitous that anything Vakov and his team try to do seems pointless. Yet he battles on, dragging himself back from the brink of death with the aid of his augmented, stromblood-infused biology, dragging his team along for the ride through multiple near-death experiences, dragging the reader onwards to the next chapter. In the next chapter, things always get worse.

This second volume in ‘The Common’ series is a triumph of sheer brute force and dogged determination. Can Jeremy Szal maintain the same intensity and whirlwind of drama? I don’t know about Vakov and his team, but I certainly need a breather before finding out what the next volume brings.

Gareth D Jones

December 2021

(pub: Gollancz, 2021. 659 page enlarged paperback. Price: £18.99 (UK), $32.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-473-22747-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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