Shadow: A Grimdark Military Sci-fi (Warpmancer Book 1)
Print Length: 266 pages
Publisher: Warpmancer Press (May 15, 2018)
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reviewed by: Wesley Britton
In closing notes to Shadow, author Nicholas Woode-Smith admits this novel is a major retelling of the first third of his earlier version of the same tale, The Fall of Zona Nox. So there are several groups of potential readers for Shadow--those already familiar with his epic and readers like me completely new to his world-building--and world-destroying- adventures.
The story centers on James Terrin, a rough-edged thief and street-fighter turned soldier who is a bit, just a bit, reminiscent of Harry Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat." Unlike Harrison's Jim DiGriz, who's an intergalactic rascal and con-man portrayed in light, satirical stories, Terrin lives in a grim, violent, and dark world in the 36th century where everyone has to be constantly aware of the many ways death can burst through the door in brutal cities like Galis where humans and aliens must survive meager existences.
What DiGriz and Terrin have most in common is their being almost constantly on the run, escaping or nearly escaping would-be killers and captors. Terrin is often running down alleyways and over rooftops while miraculously not getting hit by assassins, soldiers, or gangsters.
One aspect that really impressed me is Woode-Smith's ability to introduce new species and layers of his world's "cultures" with economy and precise descriptions. He's able to paint his gritty, gruff, dangerous environments in vivid detail while never letting the action slow. The book doesn't really have a plot beyond Terrin's becoming more and more involved in the various competing deadly interests on Zona Nox, especially as he goes beyond fighting for his own survival and then becomes part of his planet's defense against invading aliens and their deadly talons.
It's very obvious that Shadow is the starting point for the author's reinvigorated Warpmancer series which means the yarn isn't a stand-alone adventure with any story-lines tied up on the final pages. If you get interested in Shadow, plan to carry on with the epic in the subsequent volumes, both book length and short stories already available. The sequels begin with Trooper: Warpmancer Book Two listed here:
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on May 30, 2019: