Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. I’m currently taking a break on reading the Honor Harrington Series to read The Ember War Saga by a fellow Army veteran, Richard Fox. He seems to be pretty successful, so another author whom might have something to teach us all. I always want to read novels by well written authors, because I mine everything I read for useful skills. Nothing has really changed on my end, so I won’t bore your ear holes with gibberish. Instead, let’s jump right into the nuts and bolts of the story.
Title: The Ruins of Anthalas
Author: Richard Fox
Obtained: I listened to this through the audio book, which I received for free from Podium Publishing.
Pages: 452 pages
Rating: 5/5 Grenades
This follows the story of Marc Ibarra, an alien probe, Marine Lieutenant Hale, Captain Valdar, and the star cruiser Breitenfeld. The alien probe has successfully saved a sliver of humanity, and now they have to prepare because the Xaros are coming back. They fly off to the planet Anthalas to discover a lost technology which would allow humanity to use their abundance of omnium to save themselves from the alien threat. With most of Earth’s defenses destroyed, the survivors must look outside themselves for a solution. In this story we’ll meet new enemies, new allies and learn that Marc Ibarra isn’t done manipulating the human race. There’s plenty of action, intrigue, and sci-fi adventure, but on a much larger scale as the war grows to include the Alliance that saved humanity from the Xaros invasion. This novel takes the reader even deeper into the war against the Xaros, and with the fate of humanities very existence, all bets are off. If you want to know more, read the book!
There were three main characters in this novel; the star cruiser Breitenfeld, Captain Isaac Valdar, Lieutenant Hale, Marc Ibarra and the alien probe. The same ones from the previous books, which added to the familiarity with the universe. Like most novels with multiple POVs, each one served a unique purpose in the evolution of the plot. Each of these characters were well written, and you could feel enough depth to make them believable.
Breitenfeld: While the ship didn’t have any personality, per say, she was such an integral part of the story that she began to have agency and personhood. I was never a sailor, but I understand our swabbie friends have said similar things about current naval vessels. Like all good weapons of war, human and machine, she begins to show her age as she progresses through the plot. Scars, however, show her character as she bleeds oil and vents atmosphere to protect her crew. The way Richard Fox describes the ship, you could almost believe it was a sentient being! I also loved how we see the ship get more battered as the war with the Xaros continues to play itself out over interstellar space.
Captain Isaac Valdar: This character allowed you to see the naval action of the story, always at the tip of the spear in the war against the Xaros alien probes. His position as the ships commander make it extremely plausible for him to be in any action that directly involved the Breitenfeld. He was a troubled man, who’d lost his entire world when Earth was wiped out. His flawed nature is on display in this book, but it only makes me like him more. I could feel his pain, and it became my pain as I read his story. As an author, if you can make your audience emotionally invested in your characters, you won. Richard Fox did his job, and this character was extremely well flushed out.
Lieutenant Hale: This character allowed you to see the action of the story, always at the tip of the spear in the war against the Xaros alien probes. His position as one of the junior Marine officers, and a member of a special forces wing of the Marine Corps makes it extremely plausible for him to be everywhere when the Gauss Rifles start firing. He was a bit too ‘gung ho’ and competent for a junior officer but otherwise he was flushed out. Admittedly he had a competent senior NCO at his side, but I would’ve preferred to see the LT make a few mistakes so we knew he was, in fact, actually still an LT! However, as he continues to fight in the war it becomes more believable and was less of a distraction. The character was even more likeable and well thought out than in the first novel in the series. I felt he was believable and he showcased the authors own time in the US Army. Overall, an extremely well flushed out character.
Marc Ibarra/Alien Probe: We meet the unnamed alien probe and a young Marc Ibarra at the beginning of this series, and while we still don’t get a whole lot of face time they’re both so integral to the story that I feel like they’re defacto main characters. They were flushed out, with just enough information to be believable and yet vague enough we could picture them as embodiments of character archetypes we know and love. They were just the sort of shady that keeps you up at night, and conspiracy theorists spinning circles at the possibilities. I will say, the more I get to learn about the terrible duo, the less I like them. Not because they’re badly written, but because they make me want to punch them in their almost face!
This plot moved along at a steady pace, though it felt a bit slower than the first novel. I still loved the story, but maybe it was the history lover in me? I wanted to explore Anthalas myself, seeing how these aliens lived. I loved the detail and precision that Richard Fox still paid to the military technology. I also liked that he didn’t get bogged down in the science of space travel, and most of the action in this book took place on the ground or the derelict space ships. Richard didn’t ignore the science, but rather he didn’t let it bog down the story. As a reader, I don’t care how the space flight works, just that the author had a reason that it did. This novel was heavier on the ground operations than the space combat, but none of it felt lacking. Compared to book one, it was twice as much ground action than space fights. While this novel changed POVs several times, it never felt jarring and the shifts were easy to follow. You might have noticed, it is something I pay attention too when I read. Again, I read this novel as an eBook while listening to it as an audiobook. The Whisper Sync feature via Amazon’s pairing with Audible didn’t work with book two, but it didn’t mess me up. The plotting was definitely five out of five grenades for me.
The world building of this novel was expertly done, and it never felt like it was done as an “info dump.” I felt like the world building in this novel was solid, even better than the first book! There was just enough to understand everything, without slowing the pace of the novel too much. I could picture most of what he described, which helped me a lot. I sort of envisioned Incan Temples for the ruins of Anthalas. If you weren’t rooted in history, then maybe you picture something different? Hey I have to use that history degree or the bill for Villanova’s graduate program would just be a waste! However, with regards to the space technology, it was persuasively written, but not substantially different from book one. And yes, I still want my own Gauss Rifle! There were some parts where I felt it was still lacking details, but as a lover of stories I recognized them as hooks for what I expect to happen in later novels. This happens when the story spans several novels. It never felt forced, or cliff hanger-esq, and it only made me want to keep reading. I can’t really say anything else here without spoiling it for people who haven’t read the stories, but the world building was a solid five out of five grenades.
Much like the world building, the detailed descriptions were solidly done. I could envision what he wrote, and I can’t wait for the graphic novel out of this universe! Hint, hint Richard! I definitely feel like the descriptions of this book set the standard, balance the not enough against the too much. Even having said that about the first one, book two kicked it up a notch. In regards to description, this was another win for the author. I’d give this section five out of five grenades. There was still room to make the descriptions really pop, but it didn’t hurt the overall story for me. In fact, if he did give more on the description I might’ve complained about the slower pace. It’s all about balance, and none of these sub-components to the story can exist without the others, so bare that in mind as you read book reviews.
I received the audiobook free as a proof of concept from Podium Publishing while in we were in negotiation for my own series. In fact, the quality of this production was why I pushed Boss Man to agree to the contract. The only real complaint the accents of the various characters made them slightly difficult to understand. Because of this, I couldn’t tell you a single call sign for the pilots in this novel. Full disclosure, I lost some of my hearing while in the service, so this might just be my own issue. Also of note, the first two novels of this series are on the same audiobook. The whisper sync only worked for the first book but if you pay attention to the chapters you can easily find your place. Five out of five grenades.
In spite of my issues with the accents from the narrator, I really enjoyed this novel. I loved this story even more than the first novel. The story kept me hooked, and made me want to read the rest of the series. I’ve bought book three already, and suggest you do too! This wasn’t a novel to revolutionize the world, but that isn’t why I read military science fiction. I want explosions, gun fights and cool stories. A few cool aliens wouldn’t hurt, and in every regard Richard Fox delivers! I would even recommend that you buy the novel in the digital AND audio format! This is one book you’ll want to buy for your reading pleasure and keep to read again. This was a solid 5 grenades.
If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out! You won’t regret it! Well, unless it keeps you up all night and you’re late to work… and then you fall asleep while driving and wreck your vehicle. And while you’re stuck on the side of the road your boss calls and fires you because you’re late. Without viable employment, you become a rabid fan, blowing your life savings buying all gazillion of his novels in this universe. And then, while looking for a job the alien probe arrives… and well, you know what happens. Then, you’ll try to tell your friends but they’ll think you’re insane and lock you up in a funny farm. And then they give you good drugs, making you see even more of the aliens, forcing your spirit to carry on in the limbo as your body sits in a drugged-out comma, restrained by your straight jacket. With nothing left to lose, you astroproject in Richard’s office because he ruined your life. But you go insane at the futility because he can’t see or hear you. Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you. Be warned, but enjoy the happy pills!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.