13 October, 2009

Review: Angry Ghosts, by F. Allen Farnham

Angry Ghosts book cover by author F. Allen FarnhamAngry Ghosts [US](2009), by F. Allen Farnham, is hard edged military science fiction published by Cadre One Publishing.

The Setup

The eradication of all human life on earth at the hands of powerful aliens makes a remote military outpost the last bastion of humanity. Driven solely by the need to survive and wreak vengeance upon their enemy, a thousand years have passed, giving birth to a highly regimented society that has abandoned all human norms, save one: the protection and preservation of life. Having depleted the natural resources necessary to survival surrounding their secret base, the genetically enhanced humans turn to piracy, stealing what they can from the genocidal aliens, who believe them to be the angry ghosts of a civilization they thought exterminated. The story centers around the missions of three elite operators, a Geek, a Gun, and a Brick.

Angry Ghosts is a straightforward look at the exigencies and consequences of the interaction between deep space survival and military structure. Individuality and emotion are frowned upon, and members of society who do not meet stringent mental and physical criteria are lobotomized, summarily turned into thoughtless workers. This extreme of existence is contrasted, later in the story, with the accidental discovery of a long lost colony ship whose occupants are unaltered humans living a complete existence, replete with all its ‘flaws’.

My Take in Brief

Angry Ghosts is a short, workmanlike, and straightforward debut whose author has clearly given much thought to the richness of human existence. The deeply personal relationship he has with the concept, and its ancillaries, comes across clearly, revealing both candid ambiguity towards and profound respect for the human condition. Equal parts philosophical thought experiment, psychological inquiry, and military sci-fi adventure, Angry Ghosts has a fair amount of memorable moments that are sure to entertain.

For all its intellectual approach, a number of elements ring false throughout the novel, distracting from what is otherwise an uncomplicated and fun read. Many of the ‘scientific’ aspects of Angry Ghosts leave much to the imagination, notably space travel and its attendant time distortion, or lack thereof. The experienced science fiction reader will be offended by meager descriptions and the implicit disconnect between the various scientific disciplines. Additionally, the genetically evolved humans suffer from a surprising knowledge gap that requires a strong helping of ‘suspension of disbelief’ to overcome.

Structurally, the author would have been well advised to meter out his revelations, avoiding awkward knowledge dumps in favor of more incremental and suspenseful insights. That said, the story does entertain, putting forward an interesting narrative and a number of intriguing concepts, which generally overcome the novel’s flaws. For an apparent debut, it is a solid start, and I look forward to seeing how the author improves in further installments.

About the Author

Allen was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1973. After earning a B.A. in Political Science, he abandoned his plans for law school to work in sales. His journal is a constant companion, and in it he develops the thoughts and impressions which shape his novels. There must be more to life than scraping by, he believes, and there must be something left of the world worth passing on. More than themes in his books, these beliefs guide him in his day to day life. He now lives in Salem, Massachusetts with his cat, Tom, and his dog, Hamlet.


ediFanoB said...

A good review for all people who like or are interested in military science fiction. To be honest I'm still not interested in. But that doesn't hinder me to read reviews about this kind of stuff.

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