Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Review: Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black

Ninth City Burning
Author:  J. Patrick Black
Publisher:  Ace, September 6, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 496 pages
List Price: US$27.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101991442 (print); 9781101991459 (eBook)

Centuries of war with aliens threaten the future of human civilization on earth in this gripping, epic science fiction debut...

We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.

Qwill's Thoughts

Ninth City Burning is set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been at war for the last 500 years with aliens. Part One of the novel introduces us to the primary characters - Jax, Naomi and her sister Rae, Torro and his friends, and Vinneas and his friends, Imway and Kizabel. The story is told from their varying points of view. Black presents the structure of his world - the war, the Ninth City, the Settlements, the enemy (the Romeos) and more all without really explaining what is going on. I liked this part of the novel though I really had no real information about the war, who the attackers are, etc. It's not until Part Two that Black reveals what is going on or at least what he wants us to know is going on. For me this is when I really started to enjoy Ninth City Burning. As the novel progresses the characters are more deeply fleshed out as they change, face obstacles and end up fighting to save the planet.

Black's worldbuilding is remarkable. He has a created a highly structured system to support the war effort. There are schools in the Cities set up to teach the elite and those who can use thelemity. Thelemity, which is an inventive concept, is well explained. There are the Settlements that supply the food, draftees and more for the war effort. There are people who live outside the Cities and Settlements and trade with the Settlements. It's really fascinating. Each of these groups are represented in the point of view characters.

There are wonderful little mentions of songs, books, TV shows from what is called the Common Era (before the war) - they are both familiar anchors and a bit disorienting at the same time.

The main characters are all young as those studying in the Cities and those drafted and in the war effort tend to be preteens and teens. This society is nothing like our own. Black does a nice job with each of the POV characters as we see their inner struggles as well as outer ones. These characters are very different from each other and Black does an excellent job with each of their 'voices'.

Ninth City Burning is both grand space opera and post-apocalyptic SF anchored in compelling characters and exceptional intricate worldbuilding. I'm looking forward to the next novel in this series.

Note: Ninth City Burning does not end with a cliffhanger.


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