Empires: Extraction/ Empires: Infiltration
You wait forever for one alien invasion…
Release Date: OUT NOW!
328/ 346 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Gavin Deas Publisher: Gollancz
For the sake of a
soundbite it’s tempting to start this review: “Gavin Deas is clearly not the man who put the ‘ i’ into ‘ ideas’,” but that would be disingenuous. Because one thing this experiment doesn’t lack is ideas. Sadly, it’s collapsing under the weight of them.
The central conceit of this pair of books is that Earth is being invaded by two sets of aliens at the same time. This is a complete coincidence; even though the invaders are centuries- old enemies they don’t seem to be aware of each other’s presence… at first. Extraction concentrates on one invasion, with one set of human characters; Infiltration concentrates on the other invasion, featuring another set of characters. Part of the fun comes from spotting when the two stories intersect, and you see the same scenes from different points of view.
Both books are one- tenth Iain M Banks- lite, with a few chapters containing some pretty hardcore SF concepts. The Weft, for example, are a pragmatically scientific race with two aspects and a knack for spaceships with personalities and silly names, while the Pleasure are shapeshifting, hedonistic capitalists on a grand scale who plan to get Earth hooked on a new drug – Bliss.
The remaining 90% is half urban thriller, half Michael Bay’s Transformers. Gnarly cops, hard- arse government spooks and laconic special ops soldiers mix with gangsters and drug dealers in- between random interspecies battles. At any given time you’ll know precisely what weapons anyone is carrying but have little idea what their thoughts and motivations might be, while playing a drinking game where you take a swig every time you read the phrase, “a spray of blood,” or, “his head came clean off ” will leave you with alcohol poisoning. The action – as with a Bay film – is overlong and almost fetishistic in detail, to the point where it becomes dull, incoherent and skippable.
The structure also works against the storytelling, as the “alien POV” chapters have to be used for infodumping to give the reader any clue what’s going on. It’s a welcome technique, but hardly elegant.
In their favour, both books are fast- paced and blackly humorous, with a spattering of decent characters, and the crossovers add to the fun. But the overall feeling is that Empires was written as the result of a bet, and necessity has triumphed over substance. Dave Golder Gavin Deas is actually a pseudonym for a two- man writing team – Gavin Smith and Stephen Deas.