Thursday, February 23, 2012

Awesome Omnibus: Jump Gate Twist by Mark L. Van Name

Today’s Awesome Omnibus features Jump Gate Twist by Mark L. Van Name published by the fine folks at Baen a publisher well known for bundling their series books in handy omnibus format. Chances are, I’ll feature at least one or two more Baen titles in future installments of Awesome Omnibus.

On to this book…I read it about a year-and-a-half ago, wrote a review which disappeared when the place for which I wrote the review revamped its Web site last year. What prompted me to post about his one now is the fact that I’m finally getting around to reading Overthrowing Heaven, the third book in the series after having it on the to read stack for well over a year.

Anyway, I’d seen good things about Van Name’s novels, specifically from liviu at Fantasy Book Critic (who I have come to consider a Trusted Reader over the past couple of years).

Essentially, these books are Space Operatic SF adventure novels with a dash of Military SF. The protagonist is an augmented human and his partner is the AI of his space vessel. I kept thinking these books reminded me of Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels (which have also been omnibified), except IN SPAAAACE! Regardless, they are solid books that really capture the fun of SF very well.

Mark L. Van Name has risen quickly among Baen’s stable of science fiction novelists and with good reasons. Many of those reasons are on full display in Jump Gate Twist, an omnibus containing One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack, the first two novels in his Jon and Lobo series plus two short stories set in the universe. Jon is the human protagonist and first person narrator while Lobo is the living, space-faring warship who provides dry responses to Jon’s rhetorical questions. The dialogue between Jon and Lobo is entertaining and provides a strong narrative current. I was reminded a bit of Steven Brust’s assassin Vlad Taltos and his familiar Loiosh in that both duos communicate on a silent, mental wavelength.

Jon is not exactly normal human, as a result of experiments conducted while Jon was younger, his body is teeming with nanobots which provide him a level of superhuman abilities, not the least of which is the ability to communicate with machines. One Jump Ahead introduces both characters as Jon acquires Lobo when vacationing on the planet Macken, Jon is convinced to help save a young kidnapped girl. Before the second full novel, we get a very early glimpse at Jon before he is the experienced courier and ex-military man. The story, “My Sister, My Self,” is set on Jon’s birth planet Pinkelponker and offers readers the only glimpse at Jon’s sister Jenni, the memory of whom haunts Jon in the two novels in the omnibus.

In Slanted Jack, the second novel in the omnibus, Jon runs into an old ‘business partner’ who lures Jon back to his side in order to save the life of a young boy who is contention point between a religious cult (with ties to Jon’s home planet of Pinkelponker); a crime lord who wants the boy for his own purposes; and strong-armed government. While the setting of the books is a vast galaxy, Van Name does a great job of making these stories personal and intimate deftly balancing character and action.

One of the cooler SF-nal elements allowing for such widespread travel are the Gates, which allow quick travel across galaxies and are thought by some to be relics of an ancient civilization or even gods. All told, I highly recommended this book both as an introduction to Van Name’s work and a great value for containing two flat-out entertaining Science Fiction novels.


Liviu said...

The third book brings Lobo's secrets (it has some too) to fore and has some of the coolest characters of the series outside the two.

The fourth is a bit different as it is more serious and darker - maybe a 1/3 is about Jon's childhood as an experiment and how he became a child soldier and the rest is with children soldiers in the novels' present.

The fifth which seems to get into Jon's quarantined planet deeper is a huge asap - I waited for it in 2011 - sadly a little delayed but hopefully in the summer/fall, even if not in May

RobB said...

I'm only a few chapters into OVERTHROWING HEAVEN, but I'm remembering why I enjoyed the omnibus so much.