Rockman: The Battle (book 2 of 3) by Mark Pickvet (book review).

December 14, 2021 | By | Reply More

‘Rockman’ subtitled ‘The Battle’ is a direct sequel to ‘Rockman The Beginning and’ is a post-apocalypse fantasy series by Mark Pickvet. The ‘Rockman’ books were published by Port Town Publishing but unfortunately their website is no longer reachable and this reviewer assumes they were a small press arrangement.

‘The Battle’ picks up directly after the last chapter of that previous book. In ‘The Beginning’, we were introduced to Pickvet’s post-apocalypse world of regressed primitive societies populated by both humans and various strains of humanity who have evolved into trolls, elves and dwarves. ‘The Battle’ continues the story of Drake, who was the most prominent protagonist of the first book. Joining him are the cyborgs, Ariel and the titular Rockman. ‘The Battle’ also continues the stories of the antagonistic human cultures as well as John Cavanaugh the military cyborg and the Dark Rider who continues his psychotic rampage to kill anything he can lay his lance to.

In the first book, we met an energy-based alien life-form named Wisp, who explained to Rockman that her race is very old and coming to the end of their lifetimes. The first book also briefly mentioned Maru as a criminal of that race imprisoned within an ice asteroid. Wisp entrusted a set of energy ‘seeds’ to Rockman telling him he would need them and to destroy any that sprouted as dark energy. As various characters have visited Rockman, certain energy seeds appear to become active. From this Rockman has concluded to gift those characters with the activated seeds. For example, this leads to Drake having an energy-activated sword when his seed is combined with his weapon.

This book brings in the new and much more subtle antagonist Maru who has now been released from his prison. Coming to Earth with the intention of wiping out the humans, he has been able to obtain a dark seed before Rockman could destroy it. Further to this, Maru finds he can influence the Dark Rider. Until this point, the Dark Rider stuck to his own circuit of the continent and merely slaughtered anything it found therein. But with Maru’s guidance, the Dark Rider now deviates from this and begins to attack the various human communities within the continent.

Set against all this, the main part of the story concerns Drake and his support of Ariel’s peaceful community as they defend themselves against more aggressive groups. Drake and Ariel are joined by Silverleaf, the elf who was left floating on a raft after a shipwreck at the end of the previous book. Soon, they are also joined by Zigly and two other dwarves who have been searching for Silverleaf following the shipwreck and whom the reader might have assumed lost at sea in the first book. Zigly, his fellow dwarves and Silverleaf will be invaluable in Ariel’s group struggle against the militaristic warlord Garth who is himself an old enemy of Drake.

Unfortunately, Pickvet continues his habit of writing a quotation at the beginning of each chapter. While these are no doubt relevant to Pickvet’s themes, they are still intrusive and sometimes over long. I find them no more welcome than in the first volume. The grammatical errors and spelling mistakes also continue. Thankfully, these mistakes remain few and far between but still leave an unprofessional feeling.

At least, in this volume, Pickvet presents the chapters in chronological order which makes it easier to read. This allows the reader to more easily access this entertaining and fun story. The wide variety of character types leads to naturally dynamic exchanges between them which is enjoyable to read. This reviewer found himself increasingly enthusiastic to turn the pages. As some of the more confusing aspects of the setting and story get explained, it allows the reader to better focus on the fun adventures. Pickvet has a pleasing approach to description which is economical yet evocative. This means that the text can zip along quite quickly while maintaining the atmosphere. I feel that Pickvet is not a bad author but is constrained somewhat by his shotgun approach to imagination and the editorial abilities of his publisher.

It still feels rather like Pickvet wrote one book and the whole thing was split into three volumes not by narrative but simply by page count. There are still some storylines that just seem to stop without resolution at the end. A friend from Drake’s childhood is Tam, now a grown woman and accomplished hunter, but she spends the whole book drifting down the river from her destroyed community trying to find Ariel’s settlement. Alas, by the end of the book, she is still drifting…

However, this book does start to tie together some of the disparate tales as presented in the first volume and is better for it. The more coherent narrative is both more fun the read and far less confusing. There does feel like a more logical ending point for this volume which addresses some of the more domestic concerns before the characters turn their attention to Maru and the Dark Rider. I therefore find myself with increasing anticipation of the third volume ‘Rockman: The Dark Rider’. It feels increasingly as if the reader is being rewarded for the effort of reading the first book with an easier and hence more enjoyable second book. The question is can Pickvet bring all the strands together in a glorious crescendo or will the whole thing collapse into mediocre confusion along with Pickvet’s hopes and dreams?

Can I recommend ‘Rockman: The Battle’? Yes and with more conviction than for the first book as the rewards of reading it are becoming more clear. I just hope the third book weaves back in some of the less focussed aspects (dragons, anyone?) so as to create a unified whole. If Pickvet can weld all the strands together, then it will make sense of the previous volumes and become more than the sum of its parts. That would be far more worth the time the reader invests.

Dave Corby

December 2021

(pub: Port Town Publishing, 2004. 170 page enlarged paperback. Price: £10.95 (US). ISBN: 1-59466-071-9)

Category: Books, Fantasy

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