Book Review: Genesis (the Battle Within)

Book 1 of the Pillars of Creation Series

By David Tucker

“A thousand years in the future, mankind has been saved by the inception of a powerful religion.  Genesis, an anomalous, immortal and sacred warrior, is sent to crush a band of rebels who oppose this religious authority.

 But things go wrong, and a portal is opened, awakening an ancient alien power.  Genesis is battled hard, but even as he faces death, he is unexpectedly liberated.  A prophecy that his master once told him surfaces, and Genesis begins to wonder.  Could it be true?”

Genesis is a sci-fi book with an interesting premise.  We ultimately have a stable galaxy, policed by super-soldiers, but with an equilibrium that is about to be blown apart by some dark and ancient power.  Sound familiar?  But familiarity is not a problem, especially when the author gives that premise an interesting and well thought-out sheen.  There is a solid plot and a rich world behind this book, but unfortunately, I found that I had to search for the plot a bit too hard.  There is an awful lot of what I would call info-dump here, and perhaps even more introspection (maybe I should have expected this with the sub-title ‘the Battle Within’.)  Overall, this cut didn’t work for me, but a slimmed down version certainly would.

This is the first sci-fi book I have read in a long time.  But much of thisGenesis_BookCover is analogous to a well-trodden fantasy plot line – almost forgotten prophecies; an ancient power that has returned; a downtrodden warrior who will rise from the ashes of his struggles – so in many ways it is familiar territory.

And on all these levels, it is a well considered book.  The author has really thought about their futurescape, and there’s no escaping the almost fanatic attention to the details of the socio-religious dynasty.  The result is a galactic society bent on authoritarian administration and a zero-tolerance stance on non-compliance.  Hence their need for religious warriors.

It felt a bit tart as a political equilibrium, but I suspect that this is part of the longer plot – and it was very well considered.

Then we have the sci-fi aspects, which I am less familiar with.  I would say that this feels a bit Star Wars in the tech levels.  And in fact, the images that were conjured of the marines made me think of Warhammer 40,000.  I’ve never indulged in Warhammer, but this book resonated with classic Warhammer poster images.  And it’s well done – marrying more mundane aspects of a futurescape with the less familiar technology.

But perhaps the coolest tech aspects are those attached to the Immortals.  Their AI (which we POV at one point) and their nano-tech are fabulously conceived, and I don’t think it is giving too much away to point out that their Sacred weapons are sheathed within their bodies!  Epic.

So – good plot and great attention to detail.  A fine start.  But there are some aspects that left me colder.  I think these can be thrown into two categories:

  • Info-dump
  • Perspective

Info-dump was definitely a problem for me.  The author has an exceptional grasp on the universe he’s created, and he’s desperate to tell us all about it.  The problem is that without context, this detail feels a bit textbook – and we all know what we felt about school textbooks!  The info has been wrapped somewhat cleverly into Sermons or flashbacks, but it is unmistakably info-dump.  And lots of it.  Especially in the first half of the book.

Some readers will really like this deep background, but it’s just not for me.  If anything, I prefer to go a bit too far the other way, with details coming to light only when absolutely relevant (or maybe even later than necessary!)

Somewhat related to this is the perspective point.  This is multiple third person POV – which is good.  As mentioned earlier, we also POV the AI which is quite original.  And we have good dynamic distance too, from objective action right down to italic font direct thought.  What jarred was not this in itself, but purely the amount of time we spend on introspection.  It’s astonishing.  If I spent that much time introspecting, then I probably wouldn’t hold down a job!  And I’m a daydreamer.  I understand that some of this is relevant in the context of the religious aspects of the galactic order (and indeed the intended plot) but my personal view is that it was just too much.

And when we combine Info-dump and introspection, we end up with a lot more words than what is necessary to tell the story of what’s happened.  I got to about 2/3 of the way through the book, and reflected on just how little had happened.  And it’s not a small book.  In fact, I would even go a little further and suggest that the climax of the book felt like it was the point where the action was just getting going – the classic first-part break in a novel.  But then the book ended.  Sad-face emoji.

But let’s put these thoughts aside, because I didn’t stop reading.  No indeed – I was intrigued to find out what happens (even if I felt a little cheated at the end), and am mildly tempted to see what happens in the sequel.  Clearly there is a long and well thought out journey to take in subsequent volumes, and I don’t think readers will be disappointed with the destination.  The journey might be a bit boggy in places for my personal taste, but I suspect that it would ultimately be a worthwhile journey nonetheless.

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