Tuesday, 26 June 2012

'Champion of Mars' - Guy Haley


Champion of Mars was another easy reading choice. Guy Haley is one of my favourite new authors, and his Richard and Klein Investigations series is simply brilliant. Champion of Mars is set in the same universe as his previous books, but is supposedly very different. When I first saw the cover in a newsletter from Solaris Books, I knew straight away I wanted to read it. Thank you Solaris Books for providing me with a review copy of Champion of Mars.

In my review of Reality 36 I said it was a interesting take on the rise of AI in society, and how it would effect modern society. Champion of Mars takes this to the next level and beyond with some truly stunning world building.

It's also a story about Mars, the red planet, which has always been a favourite for SF writers as the first planet to colonise. This is also the case in Champion of Mars, where it all starts with the arrival of a new scientist. We are off to a rather exciting start, the colonising has already started with several bases, by various nations, already in existence. It's a little bit of an arms race at this point of who gets to do what, not so bad as a full out conflict, more of a professional competition between the different nations. What's exciting there is life on Mars, deep down under the surface of Mars, we finally learn we are not alone, even if it's just a question of microorganisms. Our scientist is on place to evaluate how Mars can be terraformed without impacting the existing ecosystem.

Guy Haley treats us to a vivid tale of the exploration of the Martian cave, and although there are no The Descent monsters present, the naturally hostile environment of Mars makes it exciting enough. It's also surprisingly beautiful, which anyone who has ever been in a cave full of stalactites can attest to, but this cave also has colourful microorganism. Wish I could be there. Champion of Mars is however not a BBC documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough, it's a science fiction novel written by Guy Haley. The shit is about to hit the fan, and it does. They find a lot more than they bargained for.

I really like how Guy Haley choose to layout his story, and how he lets us follow Mars from its early days of colonisation to millennia later, where AIs and human live integrated, and even as life companions, sharing both a real and virtual existence. No one really dies, everyone is stored to be reborn later, maybe next year or in a hundred. It's as if Guy Haley has a complete scan of Mars' history, and then composed Champion of Mars by putting the most important 'slices' together into a book.

Let's talk about the golden man on the cover, Yoechakenon, Champion of Mars. Bred for war, armed with a living suit of armour, he is death incarnate. Alone, he is capable of levelling a city, but his hardest fight is ahead of him. In the background on the cover stands his companion, Kaibeli, a machine spirit. The two have been together even longer than they can remember, and now they fight for the future of Mars.

It's, content wise, very different from his Richards and Klein Investigations novels, with a far more high tech environment, but also with a more serious attitude. Gone, are the MMO influenced realities, replaced by a far more gritty and deadly environment. Again, Guy Haley is spot on with the action, making Champion of Mars one hell of a read. You can definitely see the influence by Neal Asher, but Guy Haley of course has his own unique voice.

Even though the Champion of Mars is set in the same universe as his Richards and Klein Investigations series, you don't need to have read them. The immense time span of Champion of Mars makes it both a prequel and sequel to his other books, which is a bonus if you have read them. Familiarity is always good.

Champion of Mars is his best book so far, an absolute gem. It is a must read for any fan of science fiction, not just those who are fans of action packed SF, Champion of Mars also offers suspense and some really cool world building.

Champion of Mars weighs in at 318 pages, and is published by Solaris Books.

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