The Machine Awakes by Adam Christopher (book review).

Well, well, well. It’s been over 18 months since I reviewed Adam Christopher’s ‘The Burning Dark’ which is the novel that proceeds this one. I thought at the time it would work well as a film and still do, what with it being a creepy ghost story.


‘The Machine Awakes’ however is a different item. It’s sort of a detective story set in the same universe as ‘The Burning Dark’ and the mechanical alien spiders are still threatening mankind. I should make it clear that ‘The Machine Awakes’ is a standalone novel and you do not need to have read ‘The Burning Dark’ before reading this one. They may be set in the same universe but they are unrelated.

The story’s main character is Special Agent Von Kodiak of the Fleets Bureau of Investigation. Normally, members of the Bureau are concerned with policing the internal matters of the Fleet. They are the human military organisation protecting human space – Fleetspace – and fighting the mechanical Spiders. Having the Fleets Commander-in-Chief (CIC) overthrown by an internal coup and then assassinated by an unknown assailant is the equivalent of a lot of the brown stuff hitting the fan. This provides the necessary incentive for recalling Special Agent Kodiak from a deep undercover mission which could hardly be thought of as Fleet internal business. I suppose that’s why they sent a maverick. The other major players in this are the Fleet’s Psi-Marines and the Jovian Mining Corporation, or JVC for short. The Psi-Marines are the psychic warriors of the Fleet, trained to disrupt the Spiders communication so that they can be picked off by the traditional soldiers. They are also responsible for overthrowing the incumbent Fleet CIC with their very own commanding officer stepping up to take charge.

When the old and the new CICs are assassinated by unknown assailants, there’s panic amongst the Fleet top brass. It’s up to the Bureau to investigate and sort the mess out before things get any worse. JVC are a civilian organisation who mine the Jovian system for the necessary materials to keep the Fleet operating. In fact, they are the Fleets main supplier and have been able to take sole possession of the Jovian planet and its many moons. This places them in a very strong position with very little oversight from any form of government or the Fleet itself. Being a commercial operation, they do things a little different from the Fleet.

It is going to be difficult to discuss the plot much further than I have without divulging spoilers. Kodiak is a detective of sorts and there’s quite a bit of detective work to be done. There’s some very surprising twists where things turn out to be not quite what they seemed. I must admit I liked the way this was done. The various characters are interesting with a good mix of personalities. Perhaps the weakest of these is Kodiak’s Bureau partner, Braben. There’s not enough back story to him. Artificial Intelligence makes an appearance and, no, I’m not talking about the Spiders. I thought it was clever how Adam Christopher differentiated the Fleet’s approach to AI and JVC’s. While AI might become a factor of real life, I’m not convinced that psi abilities will. However, it’s done well and doesn’t distract from the main story which is Kodiak investigating the assassination of the Fleet Admirals. Wrapped up in this are the fates of a pair of twins who enrolled as Psi-Marine cadets. One completed the training and one went AWOL. The plot moves along at a sprightly pace which meant I found it hard to put the book down. I also thought it felt more polished than ‘The Burning Dark’.

While there is a very satisfying ending to ‘The Machine Awakes’ there’s at least one loose thread that could easily provide the seed for the next novel. The fact that not everyone dies leaves scope for some of the characters to return and I most certainly hope they do. ‘The Machine Awakes’ is a book I’d recommend to anyone who like Science Fiction. I just hope Adam Christopher’s almost finished the next book in the series as I expect there’s a lot of people (including myself) that wants more of this. Bring on the Spiders!

Andy Whitaker

January 2016

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2015. 416 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7653-7640-4)

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I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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