My rating: 3 of 5 stars
DISCLAIMER: Review copy from NetGalley.
Picking up where the Dire Earth Cycle series left off, Injection Burn is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure in which the author never takes his foot off the gas. It’s action from start to finish. It concludes abruptly and leaves the reader poised for the next phase of the adventure.
I’d previously read The Darwin Elevator (which I enjoyed), the first book of Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, but never got around to reading the other books in the series. I didn’t let that deter me and, after some research, it sounded like I could approach these new books which are set within the same universe and overall story arc as a standalone series. That’s generally true because there are a lot of references to people and events from the Dire Earth Cycle and these are explained in enough detail to get the picture. The story is a continuation of those prior events, with the opening scene of this book set over a thousand years after the close of The Plague Forge (the last book of the Dire Earth Cycle) yet the two timelines merge together rather neatly early on and continue as one thread.
It’s got a definite military vibe (even though it’s not about a military force as such) mixed with some solid space opera elements and as I mentioned earlier is jam-packed with action. There is tons of explosions, combat and lots cool weapons tech, so no complaints there. The writing style is very “visual” by which I mean that it’s very busy with events moving about the place most of the time and the scenes jump around a lot. Sure, the text is descriptive and engrossing and I generally found it easy to see the events in my mind’s eye but I did find myself occasionally stumbling if I lost the picture. Combined with the fact that this book is quite light on dialogue, it was a fast read that I devoured easily over a few days. There, however, are a couple of reasons why I didn’t find this book all that satisfying in a storytelling sense.
Firstly, there isn’t anything significant to impress me, no jaw-dropping moments of revelation or majestic vistas of the cosmos, etc. To be fair, there’s a scene early in the book of an alien planet with some strange creatures which isn’t too bad, and at the end where we get a look at the alien Builder’s besieged homeworld which looks awesome. But overall I was a tad underwhelmed by the world building. Secondly, I didn’t respond with any enthusiasm (positively or negatively) to any of the characters. I think the author has scrimped a little in this department and I found them all a little one-dimensional and shallow. I didn’t even have a favorite, be it a good guy or bad guy. I ended up not really caring who got killed or not because, apart from the central character, nobody seems to be anything more than a simple pawn, relevant in terms of the action yet insignificant within the bigger story. Maybe they will come into their own in the next book. I guess we’ll see. Fixing these areas would make this book really hum and turn it from something just okay into something a lot more satisfying.
As us bookish types sometimes do, I felt a bit lost when the book came to an end. This may sound surprising after what I’ve just said about it, but I really did want to continue and see it develop into something spectacular. Maybe it will in book two Escape Velocity.
I’m fairly sure that anybody who has enjoyed Hough’s earlier books would find this one similarly enjoyable because it’s written well and is certainly easy to read. But for me it lacks a bit of story meat on it’s bones.
= 3 out of 5