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Friday, September 26, 2008

INDIE SPOTLIGHT: "In Her Hame" by Michael R. Hicks (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Official Michael R. Hicks Website
Order “In Her Name
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INTRODUCTION:In Her Name” is the debut novel of independent author Michael R. Hicks. The author brought “In Her Name” to my attention in a chance online encounter, and after reading the four chapter excerpts on Mr. Hicks’ website, I quickly wanted to finish it and bought the book. The novel is a mixture of military space opera and epic fantasy that works very well, and I recommend anyone who might be interested to check out the excerpts and decide for them selves.

SETTING: Sometime in the future humanity has expanded on many worlds under the aegis of a more or less democratic Confederation when it encountered the terrifying and totally alien Kreelan Empire. Technologically superior to humanity, the Kreelans—blue-skinned humanoids similar to mankind but all females as far as everyone knows—attack human colonies seemingly at random, using their advanced technology to disable humanity's modern weapons and then engage in hand-to-hand combat that mostly results in Kreelan victory, although they usually retreat leaving the survivors alone. With no prisoners taken on either side and no communication despite multiple attempts by the Confederation leaders, these attacks have been going on for a century now and have reduced humanity to a siege mentality. But in one such raid, a young child named Reza Gard, inflicts by surprise a face wound to one of the alien leaders, the warrior priestess Tesh-Dar. Tesh-Dar gives a similar scar to Reza and leaves him alone, but later their paths will meet again—by chance or destiny—and everything will change…

FORMAT/INFO: I bought a Mobipocket e-book edition of “In Her Name” which is reflowable so does not have fixed page numbers but the trade paperback edition of the novel stands at 680 pages. The novel is divided over three main ‘Books’, each subdivided in numbered chapters to a total of 59 such and ending with an Epilog. The narration is present-tense third-person mostly through the POV of Reza Gard, but occasionally switches to secondary though important characters like Nicole, Jodi, Eustus, the main villains and several others.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS: Structurally, “In Her Name” is split into several parts that follow the main character Reza Gard from a very young boy in the middle of a brutal war with terrifying alien invaders, to the fulfillment of his extraordinary destiny many years later. The roughly six main parts are quite distinct in character, ranging from plucky exploited orphans fighting back against their corrupt “guardians” to epic fantasy with prophecies, blood curses, spirits, coming-of-age as a warrior in a society that practices combat as sport to hardcore military sf, political and military space opera and much more. Since a lot of the book’s enjoyment comes from the multiple twists and turns, I won’t reveal too much of the plot details…

The above structure seems an odd mixture of different science fiction subgenres with some epic fantasy thrown in the mix, and the transitions are disconcerting for a while—you think you have it figured out and suddenly there is a left turn so to speak in the book—but it works for two main reasons:

First, the author’s writing style is very engaging—even emotional if you want—which makes you keep turning page after page to find out what happens next, and in the process letting you live the book. That is the main reason I enjoyed “In Her Name” so much, and this being something based on personal taste, I strongly urge anyone who might be interested to check out the excerpts and see if they are drawn by Mr. Hicks' style as I was.

Secondly, the main character, Reza Gard, is very interesting. Human by birth, alien by upbringing, Reza struggles to straddle two mutually incompatible societies: a scientific, more or less democratic and individualistic human one; and a fantasy-like society—in the sense that sufficiently superior technology will seem like magic—which is communal, blood-bonded, hierarchic, and based on honor and place. As far as the rest of the cast, the main villains are a bit cartoonish, but most of the secondary characters are very well-drawn.

There are some intriguing mysteries in the book, especially regarding the Kreelan society and their special blood-bonding that remained somewhat ambiguous to the end, but the larger-than-life characters, the intense action and the diverse style of the author are the main strengths of the novel rather than detailed worldbuilding in itself.

The ending is very well done bringing together all the threads of the novel and the seemingly insoluble problem of co-existence finds a fitting resolution.

Overall, I thought Michael R. Hicks’In Her Name" was an excellent book and I highly, highly recommend it…


Anonymous said...

ahh, thank you .-P

just need the time for all the books, arghhh :)

Bailey Bristol said...

I am a reader and writer of historical romantic suspense, so this sojourn into Michael Hicks' fantasy world was an unexpected pleasure for me. He builds a fascinating world, and his main character, Reza Gard, is immensely likeable. The stunning magnetism between Reza and his alien love was quite remarkable. I am so glad I took a chance on this book/trilogy.

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