The Reality Dysfunction
In AD 2600 the human race is finally beginning to realize its full potential. Hundreds of colonized planets scattered across the galaxy host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. Genetic engineering has pushed evolution far beyond nature's boundaries, defeating disease and producing extraordinary spaceborn creatures. A true golden age is within our grasp.
But now something has gone catastrophically wrong. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal's chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race which inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it "The Reality Dysfunction." It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history. (Synopsis from Goodreads, slightly edited)
Warning: This is a LONG book and it’s very slow. Parts of it take a little slogging to get through. On the other hand, the author’s world-building is amazing; there are some wonderful ideas for space civilisations as well as what felt like a very realistic look at rough life on a newly colonised world. A lot of this feels like old school science fiction, concerned with mankind’s colonisation and conquering of the stars. Other elements were new – space ghost possession! Why any of this is happening is left mysterious, and the main story itself is compelling (if far too diluted with uninteresting side-characters).
There are a lot of characters (we’re talking epic fantasy levels), but there is one clear main character... Joshua. Oh Joshua. Possibly the most annoying character ever written. He’s like the most obnoxious bits of Han Solo mixed with Captain Kirk mixed with Batman mixed with James Bond. He’s so amazing! He always wins! Everyone loves him! I tolerated him in this book because I was wrapped up in the story and the world-building but I hoped he would grow up and be given some kind of character development in later books. No such luck! He's a total playboy ship-captain fantasy. Mary Sue, your new name is Joshua.
Conclusion: Not space opera at its best, but still quite entertaining and intriguing. Aspects of the world-building were very impressive. I did enjoy it, but there were a lot of aspects that I didn't like so much and some that I even found a bit disturbing. I also wished it was
The Neutronium Alchemist
Not every fallen angel comes from heaven... The ancient menace has finally escaped from Lalonde, shattering the Confederation's peaceful existence. Those who succumbed to it have acquired godlike powers, but now follow a far from divine gospel as they advance inexorably from world to world.
On planets and asteroids, individuals battle for survival against the strange and brutal forces unleashed upon the universe. Governments teeter on the brink of anarchy, the Conferderation Navy is dangerously over-stretched, and a dark messiah prepares to invoke his own version of the final Night.
In such desperate times the last thing the galaxy needs is a new and terrifyingly powerful weapon. Yet Dr Alkad Mzu is determined to retrieve the Alchemist - so she can complete her thirty-year vendetta to slay a star. Which means Joshua Calvert has to find Dr. Mzu and bring her back before the alchemist can be reactivated. (Synopsis from Goodreads, slightly edited)
Space ghost possession is bringing back all kinds of crazy characters from our history. Al Capone is one of the major bad guys in this book. Yep, you read that right. Space gangsters! There’s also a bunch of space Satanists, and a really evil woman possessing a hot teenager who’s created some kind of space ghost cult because she’s so pretty that everyone will do what she says. Or something. Most of the villains in this one felt like cartoon characters. The super-weapon plot was by far the most interesting part of the book.
The silly factor is really amped up in this book, and Joshua is practically bursting with new levels of annoying. Two characters who could have been really interesting, Louise and Ione, are spoiled by their complete obsession with Joshua. He’s messing around with Ione, but oh no! He’s got Louise pregnant! What will he do? (If the space ghosts don’t kill everyone first that is). SPOILER WARNING!... Answer from the third book – sleep with Ione but then receive her heartfelt blessing to marry the pure Louise, of course. Because she hasn’t just spent an entire rainforest of pages proving that she doesn’t need him after all (sigh). END SPOILER
Conclusion: This ups the ante from the first book, and hams things up a bit too, and in a way it’s quite fun. The story is still compelling, and bits of it are clever. But you will want to punch absolutely every character in this book. And was it really necessary to include Al Capone as a character? I sort of enjoyed this, but with heavy reservations and intermittent stretches of boredom and eye-rolling.
The Naked God
The Confederation is starting to collapse politically and economically, allowing the 'possessed' to infiltrate more worlds. Quinn Dexter is loose on Earth, destroying the giant arcologies one at a time. As Louise Kavanagh tries to track him down, she manages to acquire some strange and powerful allies whose goal doesn't quite match her own. The campaign to liberate Mortonridge from the possessed degenerates into a horrendous land battle, the kind which hasn't been seen by humankind for six hundred years; then some of the protagonists escape in a very unexpected direction. Joshua Calvert and Syrinx fly their starships on a mission to find the Sleeping God - which an alien race believes holds the key to overthrowing the possessed. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
Finally! It’s time to find out what’s really going on. It’s time to see what ingenious method the characters will come up with for beating the space ghosts. How will Joshua inevitably save the day?
Well folks, it's a deus ex machina. A literal one. A giant metallic floating god in space who hand-waves the problem away. Wonderful. And so what was causing the space ghost issue in the first place? At least that must have a really interesting or perhaps even mind-blowing explanation. We've been waiting for this for three very fat books, after all. Well... it’s because people are too afraid of death to move on properly.
*throws book at wall*
So when the mysterious aliens refused to help the humans figure out the space ghost problem because it’s an issue so deep that each race must figure it out for themselves, changing themselves and everything they know about the universe forever, what they really meant was, ‘shhh, we can’t tell you yet; we still have 2500 pages to read about how awesome Joshua is.’
Conclusion: I read the entire series (about 3800 pages) to find out what would happen and to answer all my questions. The first book was fairly interesting, with many issues, and the second kept up my interest, with even more issues. Both felt like they were setting up for a dramatic, mind-blowing conclusion, which is what kept me reading even through the more frustrating and disturbing parts. The last book made the whole thing a complete waste of time. And from now on all bad characters will be weighed on a scale of 10 to Joshua.
Recommended? Absolutely not.