Embedded by Dan Abnett

April 2011      
Mass Market Paperback, 432 Pages    
ISBN 978-0-857-6609-1-6              
Sample Chapter: 


Dan Abnett has sold millions of books for Black Library/Warhammer 40K and with Embedded, he penned his first non-shared-world SF novel … and what a doozy it is.  He takes a theme familiar to most modern readers – that of the war correspondent, and amps the scale from national to galactic, and introduces a new technology allowing the reporter to get that firsthand account.

In this milieu, the United Status (US) has settled worlds far beyond Earth, and it is on one of these planets in which the action in Embedded takes place.  The planet designated Settlement 86, where conflict has existed between the US and the Central Bloc (Russian powers) for 300 years is where protagonist Les Falk has his consciousness literally embedded in the body of Nestor Bloom, a soldier on the front lines of the conflict.  When Bloom’s body is shot, then Falk personality becomes the dominant mind in the body.  This gives the first person narration familiar to many military SF novels a new twist and one that works very well over the course of the rather than just a change to the norm for change’s sake.

One could also posit that the name of the planet – Settlement 86 – is also a nod to the Cold War between the United States and the USSR, since 1986 was a major year in the Cold War being the second calendar year with Gorbachev as the leader of the USSR. These conflicting powers hearken to the old Cold War, while the war in the future theme also echoes The Forever War and Starship Troopers.

Abnett’s greatest skills in this novel are two fold –his ability to keep the tension high through minimal details.  Not that the novel isn’t layered and detailed, but Abnett manages to hold enough information from the reader to keep the curiosity level very high, which translates into rapid page turns.  The other skill that is readily apparent was his pacing, although the mystery/tension did help to build great pace.

As much as the war narrative parallels The Forever War it is in the reason for the conflict – something mysterious and not completely known to the protagonist – that Embedded resonates with The Forever War more fully.  A great deal of mystery surrounds the Macguffin of the novel, is it an object or location for which the US and Central Bloc are fighting?  This is the holding back of details I indicated earlier which is balanced so well, it was difficult to stop turning the pages for I as the reader felt like I was riding shotgun with Falk as he was uncovering red herring and entanglements before finally realizing what lie at the heart of the conflict on Settlement 86. Not all questions are answered by the end and the reveal may lead to more questions than answers, but I found it rewarding.

Abnett writes a compelling novel that is entertaining, thought-provoking, and relevant. He thrusts his well-realized characters into his trademark thrilling action sequences. There’s a truthful grittiness to the novel that Abnett manages very well. Readers who enjoyed T.C. McCarthy’s Germline and Exogene will likely find this book to their liking.

© 2012 Rob H. Bedford

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