Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"No Going Back" by Mark Van Name (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS Mark Van Name's debut "One Jump Ahead" introduced Jon Moore mercenary ex-soldier and a man of many secrets that are so dangerous that he must live alone and make no attachments, and partner Lobo, personal AI warship (PCAV) mooning as park statue/exhibition on an obscure world, an AI ship of many secrets of its own, secrets that would not do for anyone to know either.

"No Going Back" is the 5th Jon and Lobo adventure and it came two years after the previous installment rather than at the one year schedule of the first 4. The novel returned to the more classic adventure feel of the first three books and while the darker and weightier Children No More was very good, I think the original tone works better especially now that the author has it down pitch perfect.

What makes No Going Back stand out is precisely what the title literally means, namely that from now on it is no going back to the older days as the series finds here focus and a narrative pillar. The super-competent hero with extraordinary powers trope revived so well in this series gets one more dimension, a clear goal and I am really interested to see how the author handles it.

Of course Jon and Lobo are such great characters as the first person narration of which Lobo gets a little share here in this book, has worked so well to have established and any new series installment is still a huge asap, get the e-arc on the spot and read it immediately notwithstanding how many other books I have in the queue.

As style goes, the novel is a gripping read from the first pages when Jon is in the process of trying to crash a party of rich old pedophiles - party where 10 children are auctioned off - on an obscure planet with great natural beauty but harsh physical characteristics. In the link above you can read the first 15 chapters on Baen's site and see how smooth everything goes.

 The structure of No Going Back is a bit different from its predecessors, with chapters numbered "x days from the end" mixed with the 100+ year old backstory that continues Jon's memories from long ago, now from the time in his youth immediately after escaping the hell of his native - now quarantined - planet when he was not understanding his powers and trying to get the time needed to do so, while Lobo's interludes offer more insight into the AI's special human-like personality, the why's of which having been set-up in "Overthrowing Heaven".

 No Going Back functions well as a standalone as all earlier books' story lines are recounted briefly here and there, while the salient facts about Jon and Lobo are also gone through, so you can start delving in the saga here, though from the way things end, I suspect the next volumes will become much more tightly connected in both plot and secondary characters.

As my usual, positional rankings go, this series is in my top tier, get/read asap any installment, while No Going Back is probably the best executed to date, though Children No More was "more serious". The clear series focus established here should only add to the pluses in the future when new Jon and Lobo adventures will appear.

Overall No Going Back still remains a pretty classical
space adventure sf novel with modern style and sensibilities and with the the generally expected stuff implied by such, very well done but nothing previously not seen and it is one of my highly recommended novels of 2012.


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