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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blades Of Winter by G.T. Almasi (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “Blades Of WinterHERE
Read an excerpt HERE
Read FBC's Interview with G.T. Almasi

AUTHOR INFORMATION: George T. Almasi graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration & Design and moved to Boston to pursue a career as a graphic designer. He has also previously been a bass player, and wrote and designed the band’s newsletter. Once his career as an art director took off, he continued to supplement his design talents by writing copy for his clients. As a novelist, his literary influences include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. He also draws inspiration from John Woo’s movies and Todd Howard’s videogames. He currently lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his wife and their lovably stubborn dog, Ella.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in Ex-Ops, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.

Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.

CLASSIFICATION: The Shadowstorm series is a merry amalgam of The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and The Scarecrow series by Matthew Reilly set in an alternate timeline.

FORMAT/INFO: Blades Of Winter is 356 pages long divided over forty chapters. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively via Alix J. Nico. There’s also an acknowledgements page as well as an excerpt from “Hammer Of Angels” The plot is self-contained, and is the first book in the Shadowstorm series.

August 28, 2012 marks the North American Mass Market Paperback and e-book publication of Blades Of Winter via Del Rey books. Cover Art provided by Tony Mauro.

ANALYSIS: I’m a sucker for Alternate historical tales, be it Joseph R. Lewis’s Other Earth series, Robert Harris’s classic Fatherland or the more recent Land Of Hope And Glory by Geoff Wilson. It’s something about this genre wherein authors re-imagine a world from a historical standpoint that draws the mind and of course many readers love this to death. I was intrigued by this book when I came across it a couple of months ago and I included it in my list of SFF debuts to keep an eye out for.

The story is set in 1980 of the world wherein a new cold war has occured; it of course has the two main countries from our timeline namely the USA and the USSR. In addition to these behemoths are the two behemoths to emerge from World War II which are the Greater Germany and Chiang Kai-Shek inspired Nationalist Republic of China. These four nations are on face at peace with each other however on a covert level strived to wipe each other out. This covert warfare situation has been dubbed “Shadowstorm” and is carried out by agents known as “Levels” who have been given bio-medical upgrades thereby making them more than just humans. These Levels are of six types namely Infiltrator, Protector, Interceptor, Vindicator, Malefactor & Liberator.

The story opens up with nineteen year-old Alixandra J. Nico who is a level 4 Interceptor and was not supposed to be on a job which is levels above her current position however a clerical error assigned her the job and she gets on with it. The task entails tailing a former Russian Level however all hell breaks loose when Alix is fired upon by the Russian agent’s comrade and soon enough things boil down to a bloodbath. This horrible mix up is then rectified as Alix gets a dressing down from her superiors about her disastrous mission, things however aren’t finished as she learns that there was much more to that incident than just a mix-up and things have a way of being connected to her past namely her missing dad.

The story then just explodes from that point into this hyper-fast, action-packed twisted express that will compel the reader to keep turning the pages and keep them glued to the events occurring in the plot. This book surprised me on a lot of fronts and I was impressed with G.T. Almasi’s efforts in his debut. Firstly the pace of the book is almost impossible to convey verbally, from the very first line of the book, the reader is immersed into a world akin to the matrix movies wherein any mayhem and action that occurs, is supercool and cinematic. The action sequences in this book are of a similar kind and are explained in a very believable way thereby enabling the reader to visualize them precisely. The action and pace of the story is highly reminiscent of Matthew Reilly’s books and this is a plus for those seeking a fast fun-filled read.

Secondly the world building, in this case the author has tried out a different tactic seen in various fantasy titles of attaching various briefs or codas to the end of each chapter that expound about the world, its past history, protagonist information as well as the background about the main mystery in the book. This serves a nice purpose of avoiding info dumping directly in the story and adds an extra layer of suspense to each chapter ending as we get information in a very disorganized manner and it’s up to the reader to collate it in their minds and connect the dots to gain a deeper understanding of the global crisis unfolding. The world introduced in this book is one which is another story in itself and its surface is barely scratched in this opening tale. The author has done his best to provide readers with a background so they can understand much of what’s happening. I as a reader would have preferred a map to go along with the story as it would have shown visually the global division of the four superpowers. There’s also a semi-official timeline which can help acclimatize the readers with the background of the world and how it has come to be the way it is presented.

Lastly the characterization is focused mainly upon the protagonist which is Alix and we get a deep look into behavior and her thoughts, we do also get a partial look at Patrick, Alix’s field partner however the focus is squarely upon Alix and her antics. This can be a dual edged sword as when the protagonist gels within the reader’s minds especially in a first person narrative then the writer’s job is half done. For me I was definitely intrigued by Alix and her wild side however her character came across as a bit sociopathic and impulsive, and at times just a bit reckless with so much power. While such character dissection might be dependent on the reader’s tastes, one thing is sure, it makes for a gruesome and exciting read, even though there’s always a slim chance that it might put off some readers.

There are some not-so-rosy spots to this story as well, namely the action-oriented approach robs the story of developing its characters beyond its fun approach. The main character is a fun one to read about but the author doesn’t quite portray the effects of her work on her psyche entirely. Secondly the reasons given for the advancement of science and technology are a little flimsy. It’s said that scientists discovered all these wonderful aspects but no concrete reasoning is provided but this can be easily overlooked as most SF stories need suspension of disbelief from the readers.

CONCLUSION: Blades of Winter is a hyper-fast, action-loaded, tech thriller spy story that is sure to find its fans. Debutante G.T. Almasi has decided to give readers something different and it works with some suspension of disbelief. I was very much intrigued by the world and characters showcased and I can’t wait to read the sequel “Hammer Of Angels” when it releases next year. Blades Of Winter is an exciting debut be sure to check it out if you want to read a cross between Anthony Horowitz and Matthew Reilly.


shaneo52 said...

This sounds pretty damn cool, kinda like Kameron Hurley's God's War?

The Reader said...

Hi Shane

This book is a cool one but its way different than Kameron Hurley's debut. I wouldn't compare them as they have very little in common besides bad-ass protagonists.


Nayan said...

Already on my ever growing TBR pile :)

The Reader said...

Hi Nayan

Would like to hear your thoughts on it :)


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