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Red Claw

Posted by Shawn Boyles On Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wow! Is it just me or has Orbit quietly become one of the better SF&F publishers out there? It seems that just a few years ago I was joking about them, yet here we are now, and they have Daniel Abraham publishing some excellent books (THE DRAGON'S PATH and LEVIATHAN WAKES). Jeff Somers has been writing some addictive and fun SF with his Avery Cates novels. Mira Grant and N.K. Jemisin both were nominated for Hugo’s last year for best novel. And now I’ve discovered Philip Palmer.

A while ago I was given a big pile of random stuff sent to us by different publishers among them two books by Philip Palmer. I found myself with a bit of extra time and rolled the dice to see what I would read next (No seriously. I took out a dice and rolled it to see what I would read next. It’s quite a bit of fun and adds an element of spontaneity to my reading schedule sometimes. You should try it). Palmer’s book came up and I quickly devoured it. Just as a note, this book is from 2009. I had the book sitting for a while...

I don’t know if all of Palmer’s work is this interesting, pulpy and flat out fun, but you can bet I’m going to be reading the rest of his stuff to find out. That kind of sounds like the last line in a review doesn’t it? Let me back track.

RED CLAW takes place on a distant planet where a group of scientists is studying the alien flora and fauna and cataloging them. Along for the ride (and there to protect the scientists) are a bunch of genetically engineered and programmed soldiers. Stuff starts blowing up, people start dying--important people too. More than a few viewpoint characters. There are plenty of redshirts to soak up the carnage, but the list of survivors grows surprisingly thin. It’s soon a race of survival against the planet, the attacking robot hordes and even amongst the survivors themselves.

Sounds like a summer blockbuster doesn’t it? And it reads like one too. The book just keeps throwing cool stuff at you the whole time. Big action, cool aliens, bang bang bang. It just keeps going. I don’t want you to get the impression though that the book is dumb. Far from it. The characters were interesting and well thought out. And even some of those character that were more of a stereotype had a purpose. Palmer took those old tropes and twisted them a bit and gave them purpose. Were they the most three dimensional character ever put on page? No. But they weren’t totally flat either. They served the story well and I cared about them in the end. There was intrigue and backstories that came into play. The plot twisted and turned and surprised me a few times. The whole thing felt like a pulp novel yet here I am a few weeks later still thinking about it. I’ll say it again. Wow!

I have another of Palmer’s books on my shelf from that same stack of random goodies. This time around you can bet it won’t take a roll of the dice to get me to read it.

Age Recommendation:
18+ Palmer doesn’t pull his punches with the soldiers. This one’s got it all. Language, violence and sex
Language: Yeah. Tons.
Violence: Yeppers. Tons
Sex: Mentioned quite a bit and even a scene or two in there.


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