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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"The Noise Within" by Ian Whates (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Ian Whates Website
Order "The Noise Within" HERE
Read FBC Review of "City of Dreams and Nightmare"

INTRODUCTION: I have to admit I have only vaguely heard of Ian Whates before 2010, so to my regret I did not include his two early 2010 novels in my 2010 Anticipated Books post; and what novels! An excellent steampunk fantasy City of Dreams and Nightmares and now The Noise Within which is the debut of a space opera series that has great potential and has become a big time personal favorite. And to top it all, Mr. Whates is the editor of the anthology Conflicts which I have on pre-order and plan to read and review on publication, while City of Hope and Despair is another anticipated novel to come later in the year.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: The Noise Within stands at about 330 pages divided into nineteen chapters and follows four pov's, two main ones that have most of the pages and two others that may become very important as the series progresses.

Leyton is an eyegee - kind of like Cormac of N. Asher's novels - a special agent with an intelligent gun for the human government ULAW which was put together at the end of a century long war between the de facto winners ULW (United League of Worlds) and the Allied Worlds who got a smaller share of the ULAW (that A).

Philip Kaufman is the young CEO of the leading space engine firm, heir of genius father Malcolm who brought the firm to its current eminence by inventing the Kaufman drive which proved itself to be the best way to generate the wormholes used in FTL and later sort of uploaded himself into a pseudo-AI - here there are echoes of P.F. Hamilton and the Mandel series not to speak of the later ones - though Philip refuses to recognize the AI-Malcolm as more than a pale copy of his late father.

Kyle is a ship engineer, war veteran and now bored mechanic on a luxury ship, a sort of "just in case" since the vessel is super redundant.

Kethi is a human "intuitionist" - echoes of IM Banks - who is from a habitat that made itself scarce in the war, established a while ago by a charismatic leading figure of the Allied Worlds who became a "prophet" preaching the message that aliens will come and threaten humanity soon, so humanity should prepare for that rather than fight a stupid civil war.

The Noise Within is pure space opera of the highest caliber.

ANALYSIS: The Noise Within starts with a bang when we meet Leyton in a superb action sequence where he takes down a drug lord with multiple bodyguards, robot dogs, supposedly impregnable estate...

Then the action switches to Kyle whose boredom on the luxury liner he is supposed to "maintain in flight" is rudely interrupted
when the weird ship of the title The Noise Within appears from nowhere and effortlessly hijacks the liner and kidnaps some rich passengers for ransom, though strangely encouraging people to "defect". Kyle finds himself stepping forward and is the first one to defect to the rogue vessel.

Driven to make his mark, Philip is pushing hard at the one failure his father had, the integration of human and AI and the first AI piloted starship, all this
despite muted ridicule from some on the board of his firm. That because Sun Seeker the first prototype AI-piloted ship that Malcolm had built a long time ago during the war, vanished on one of its first trials killing its token crew with acceleration that no human could withstand, so the "wise heads" kind of look at this project as Philip's folly but as long as the firm is doing well and the project is not that expensive... And then AI-Malcolm calls Philip with news about The Noise Within and everything changes.

Since maybe The Noise Within is an alien ship, Kethi also makes her way
with a crack team to the area the pirate ship roams.

So these are the main threads of the novel and they weave very nicely to an excellent ending which is partly a cliffhanger. In-between there is much more, including lots of ground action, assassination attempts including one freeway scene for the ages, ship combat, a grand tour of the human space, slum world and habitat action, a virtual "hit-bar" where rich people leave
names and amounts for the killing of enemies and the acceptable in-currency is called "wishit (!)". And I could continue...

The novel just hit all the sweet spots I have in sf, from sense of wonder to futuristic tech that is familiar enough to be understandable in context, to great action scenes and characters that are quite interesting, while the big picture is coherent enough and the worlds that are showcased during the novel feel perfectly "real", places one could visit and recognize...

The Noise Within is an A+ for me and the series it debuts has a very high potential and I expect it to develop to be among the best space opera series around.


Mark said...

Thanks Liviu - this is a book I'm very eager to read and after your review it's just moved up the list so I'll read it as soon as I can get it :)


brizmus said...

Ohman, this sounds AMAZING! I am definitely going to have to check out some Ian Whates!

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words; I strongly recommend Mr. Whates' novels since both out so far are excellent; I am a lover of space opera first and foremost so Noise Within is a bit more of a favorite, but I like steampunk too and City Dreams Nightmare has lots of inventiveness too

Anonymous said...

It's time that Ian Whates starts to get noticed. I really liked his City of Dreams and Nightmare novel. I'm not a sci-fi fan, so I'm not sure if I'll check this out, but it seems to me that he's putting quality work.

Highly anticipating the sequel, City of Hope and Despair which should be coming on later this year. He's putting out a lot of releases this year, as I think he also has an anthology (don't know if it's out yet), and hopefully people will start reading him.

Liviu, did you like this more than City of Dreams and Nightmare? If so, was it because of the plot? The characters? Stronger writing? Will be interested in your thoughts on how they compare to each other.

Liviu said...

I liked The Noise Within more because it's space opera and to me that is the highest level of sff and the reason I started reading lots of sf 20 years or so ago - epic and sense of wonder

City Dreams is a book I enjoyed a lot and had a lot of fun reading, but I read The Noise Within 3 times before I could leave its universe if you see what I am saying; so it's more of a personal preference than anything else

In general if you look at my top sf novels every year, space opera (with a loose definition, but essentially involving a relatively large human space polity and either large scale conflict or large scale mysteries) tends to crowd my top choices

Anonymous said...

I like this site, because I come across books I haven't heard of. The one problem I have is determining what is actually good and what isn't. It seems like every book gets anywhere from an A to an A++. I think that if books got rated B-F too I would have more confidence in choosing from the many books reviewed. I need a more critical read, unless the only books that are posted are the ones that were good.

I still like the site though!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you watch anime at all, but have you by any chance ever watched Legend of Galactic Heroes? It's a very old anime, but it was space opera at it's best (particularly for the time it came out). Highly recommended if you ever find the time. It's a long series though.

Liviu said...

Thank you for the recommendation.

Regarding books, I tend to read a lot as well as select books I want to read with care, so here I try and present the ones I find the best, most interesting, entertaining with some notable exceptions of major highly expected books that disappointed me to an extent or another (check Shine, Thirteen - a small note but it's there, Terminal World, City/City, even Up Jim River which I somewhat reluctantly recommended because sometimes it's good to be very ambitious and not 100% succesful imho)

This being said I have the 2010 Anticipated Post that I update regularly which stands at 44 read books so far with rating and short comments plus review links whenever and 11 of those 44 have lower ratings including the latest one I read that annoyed me badly so it will get an un-review soon; also on Goodreads I have all the books I read and again they have ratings, comments, though as mentioned the majority of books i read I like since otherwise I just move them on the pile or drop them (I have 98 series I read into and dropped for example)...

Life is too short to waste on books you do not care about and considering how many books are published all the time plus the back-lists, I never understand why people persist reading stuff they dislike instead of doing a bit of a search, check an excerpt, browse...

Time4u Book Review said...

Sounds like a book i might like to read, thanks for the review.

kojisato said...

Just finishing the book and unfortunately while reading the connection to "Pandora's Star" by Peter Hamilton becomes apparent. The former being much more enjoyable too.

Big D said...

Great review. This book has been on my shelf for a while. It just made the reading list for my vacation planned for next month.

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