Sunday, July 6, 2014

Surfing the Human Wave: Sam Schall's Vengeance from Ashes

Are you looking for some more military science fiction? Well, yes, of course you are! You're reading this blog, after all, and this blog has a history of boosting books with military themes. Which is why when I came across Sam Schall's Vengeance from Ashes, I thought it'd be an appropriate selection for one of my traditional weekly reviews. Vengeance stars a Marine captain by the name of Ashlyn Shaw who, years ago, was unjustly convicted of war crimes, stripped of her rank, and shipped to a brutal military prison with several of her fellow soldiers. When the book opens, a change in presidential administrations has finally opened the way to Shaw's pardon -- but, of course, the people behind her incarceration are still waiting in the wings and are still willing to make trouble in order to cover up their own treason.

Vengeance is intended to be the first book of series, so fair warning: You will find no satisfying resolution here just yet. What you will find is a lot of set-up. You get the sense, for example, that Shaw's antagonists are cooperating with the enemy, but by the end of the novel, you are no closer to understanding the motivations behind their betrayal of their own government than you were at the start. It is also strongly suggested that Shaw's final mission before her imprisonment resulted in a great deal of collateral damage, but here too, the full story is withheld.

I also feel, personally, that Schall's writing is repetitive in parts. Once you've shown that the guards at the aforementioned prison have been violating regs and abusing their prisoners - including Shaw herself - the point doesn't have to be belabored. Similarly, once you've established that Shaw is determined to protect the other members of her team, you don't need to keep mentioning her loyalty in the narration. Shaw's actions should hammer the idea home just fine. Indeed, I think it's better for a character's behavior to speak for itself.

Still, the incompleteness and occasional redundancy aside, the larger story launched by Vengeance has potential. In particular, I'm hoping that future installments will tell us more about Fuercon's internal and external enemies. How did their conflict with Fuercon arise, and what exactly do they want? If the next book offers more back-story and more world building, I will be even more engaged in Shaw's story and more eager to see her succeed.

Final Verdict: Recommended, But With Notes

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