I review The Machine Awakes by Adam Christopher, the latest novel in his science fiction Spider Wars series from Titan Books, currently available to buy.
As the Spider Wars intensify and mankind remains trapped in a losing battle against a mechanical race capable of tearing apart entire planets, a group of hardliners overthrow their commander in a desperate bid to get their war back on track.
But when the commander’s replacement is murdered, Special Agent Von Kodiak discovers the prime suspect is one of the Fleet’s own, a psi-marine and decorated hero – a hero killed in action, months ago, at the same time his twin sister vanished from the Fleet Academy where she was training to join her brother on the front.
As Kodiak investigates he uncovers a conspiracy that stretches from the slums of Salt City to the floating gas mines of Jupiter. There, deep in the rolling clouds of the planet, the Jovian Mining Corporation is harbouring a secret that will tear the Fleet apart. But there is something else hiding in the Jovian system. Something insidious and intelligent, machine-like and hungry. The Spiders are near.
I really enjoyed the first novel in Adam Christopher’s Spider Wars series, The Burning Dark, but that wasn’t really a surprise when Christopher is an author who I’ve pretty much enjoyed every book that I’ve read from him, and I’m happy to say that The Machine Awakes is no different, offering up a tense, action packed second outing that should please fans looking for their next science fiction series, and it’s right at home for fans of the likes of Alien and Warhammer. If you like those two franchises and haven’t yet read The Burning Dark then what are you waiting for? Trust me, you won’t regret it. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go back and read the first novel (although it is recommended), you could probably jump in here just fine.
It’s a dark, creepy and entertaining science fiction conspiracy thriller that blends several imaginative ideas into one novel, continuing the themes from the first book yet at the same time remaining a different and fresh experience that continues to excite and entertain. Whilst The Machine Awakes is set in the same universe as The Burning Dark, it’s not exactly a direct sequel, but the actions made in the first book do set the stage for the second, with the Spider Wars playing at the heart of this well plotted, well written novel that just gets more and more captivating over time and by the end I could not put it down.
The Machine Awakes adopts a more plot heavy approach to that of The Burning Dark and it works, with a well paced story keeping readers entertained with a fantastically developed universe which is a joy to return to and learn more about. The horror approach in science fiction is sadly something that isn’t really used as often as I would have liked (how awesome would more Star Wars horror themed stuff be for example? I can think of Death Troopers and the prequel Red Harvest, but that’s about it), and it works to a strong effect here with some definitely scary stuff to be found.
Something that doesn’t quite as work as well as it should have done though is the characters, who weren’t as well created as the first, at least in my opinion, with the attention primarily on the plot, which is good in its own right. One of these characters includes a supervillain so clichéd you’ve seen him a thousand times before, and this is something that your mileage may vary on. We never really get the feeling that the characters are in any kind of danger, but even so, that’s probably the only major problem that I had with this book, because it was good enough in so many other areas for this not to matter as much.
It's also worth noting that the covers of these books, it’s worth noting, are also very cool and do well to establish the mood of the series. It’s just a matter of preference, but I think I prefer the cover for The Machine Awakes to that of The Burning Dark. On the whole though, it’s safe to say that this book is certainly something that can come recommend despite its flaws in the character department, because I loved returning to the world once more. It’s well worth checking out, but even though they’re standalone, like I mentioned above, go to The Burning Dark first to get a feel for the universe so you know what to expect. Also, check out Adam Christopher’s other stuff once you’re done here, he’s written so many awesome books.