Anna (_ocelott_) wrote in genrereviews,

Black Hawks from a Blue Sun by F. Allen Farnham

Series: Angry Ghosts
Publisher: Cadre One, 2010
Genre: Science fiction
Sub-genre: Military
Rating: 2 1/2 pints of blood

When I reviewed book one in this series, I whined about the cover and the title, saying that the combination conjured expectations of a horror novel rather than something sci-fi. Clearly, this is not an issue with book 2. The earth against the black is very striking and the military insignia tells us what type of book this is. Nope, nothing here for me to mock.

Since this is book 2 of the series and it picks up right where book 1 leaves off, there will most definitely be spoilers for the previous volume. Be ye warned.

When last we left our heroes, they were part of a small pocket of surviving humans left after a race of blue-skinned aliens declared war against humanity and wiped everyone out. The few remaining humans are hidden on their space station, where life is difficult and everyone needs to work hard just to survive. Scavenging is a way of life, but as long as they can stay beneath the notice of the blue-skins, they can continue to survive.

Three-man Team Spectre were among the elite of the scavengers, and after nearly destroying themselves for a mistake they can't be forgiven for, two of the three are assigned a dangerous mission, which they see as part punishment, part necessity. Thompson and Argo are given a new third man, as their regular tech is not deemed fit for the mission, and are sent to Earth, which was long ago taken over by the blue lizard-like aliens. They're to do some reconnaisance while they're there and create a little havoc while they're at it. Thompson and Argo are aware they won't make it out, but are prepared to do what it takes to keep new man Beckert alive so he can return to Cadre One with the information they've gathered.

While on Earth, the three of them discover more about their own species than the aliens. None of them have ever set foot on the planet before, and so every animal is a new and unknown wonder. The ruins of places like Washington give the warriors an idea of what life must have been like before the war, and some leftover records give a new and disturbing glimpse into both the human and the alien species, a glimpse that might change everything.

A couple of warnings for picky readers before we get into the nitty gritty: first, the book is written in present tense, which I know can irk people. Also, it very much ends on a cliffhanger (feels like the scene's been cut in half, actually), so if you're the kind who can't stand that sort of thing, you may want to wait until the promised third volume has been released.

As a sort of preface to the book, there's not only a brief explanation of the world of Cadre One, but a thorough summary of the first book, which is welcome since Black Hawks from a Blue Sun relies so heavily on the events that preceeded it. Whether you missed the first book or it's been awhile since you read it, the refresher course is a neat idea. Of course, if you're opening volume two immediately upon finishing volume one, you could skip over it easily enough, but for the rest of us it's a handy thing.

I enjoyed Angry Ghosts, which was full of some really lovely worldbuilding and character interactions, and looked forward to the sequel. Black Hawks continues with the character interactions, at least between the three men, but there's far less with the worldbuilding since the team is separated from everyone else and are back on Earth. Thompson, Argo, and Beckert make for a well balanced team, each of them competent enough on their own but nearly unstoppable together. Good thing, too, since the book focuses entirely on the three gentlemen, completely forgetting former teammate Maiella and the rest of the people met in book 1.

The biggest issue I had with the book is that because there was no major conflict driving things forward, the whole thing felt like it meandered aimlessly from mini-adventure to mini-adventure until the team makes their big shocking discovery. It was very episodic, and without a major driving force behind everything, it was easy to put the book down in between adventures and leave it there. Certainly they had their mission, but there was nothing preventing them from completing it. No tension means a serious lack of momentum for much of the book.

Kudos where it's due, though: the big dramatic discovery (which is really a two-parter) is a delicious mind-spinner and the effect it has on Beckert especially is almost worth the read on its own. I can't help but wonder how the new information will be taken by everyone else back at Cadre One, once it gets back there.

Black Hawks from a Blue Sun is available in trade paperback. My copy was generously provided by the author.
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Tags: 2 pints of blood, genre: science fiction, military
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