Sunday, November 19, 2017

Book Review: Heart of Granite by James Barclay


Title: Heart of Granite
Author: James Barclay
Publication date: 18 May 2017 (paperback)
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science-fiction/fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.

Max Halloran has no idea. He's living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He's an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family's every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything . . .

. . . right up until he hears something he shouldn't have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he's risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.

My thoughts: I wasn't sure what to think of this book going in to it: the cover said sci-fi, kind of, and the description puts it on future earth. But my boyfriend insisted I would like it, so eventually I listened... and I really enjoyed it! The set up for the story is that at some point, humans obtained some alien DNA samples from an asteroid or something like that, and reverse engineered it to end up with various giant lizards which can be controlled. There is some debate over where these things are machines, or have some kind of sentience. Max and his fellow pilots live on a giant ship, except the ship is actually an enormous reptile engineered to be filled with human living quarters, storage areas... everything they need. Max is a fighter pilot, but rather than a small aeroplane, he flies a dragon, by sitting inside a pouch on the front of the animal and linking in to its brain.

All this is fed out to the reader in little moments. It took me a bit of time to get used to that and to have a clear picture of what was going on, but it gets better. I think James Barclay was trying to be intriguing at the start and create a sense of 'ooh, what cool thing is happening here?' but for me it didn't work. Thankfully, the politics of the war and their role in it, and the smaller ship-board politics, soon becomes the focus of the story. Max is not a sit-down-quietly sort of guy. He's arrogant and short-tempered, which quickly gets him in trouble, but he cares deeply for his squad and works hard to protect them.

It's a gripping, intense story, with dragons done in a new way. I really can't go in to many more details without spoiling things, but I loved Max's character growth over the story. Many parts of the book made me think of it being Top Gun but with dragons, which was a lot of fun to read! I highly recommend this book - 8 out of 10!

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