Gareth L. Powell's Fleet of Knives was published by Titan Books in February 2018.

Information about Gareth L. Powell:

Gareth is the author of five science-fiction novels and two short story collections. His third novel, Ack-Ack Macaque, book one in the Macaque Trilogy, was the winner of the 2013 BSFA novel award. He lives in Bristol, UK. Find him on Twitter @garethlpowell.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about Fleet of Knives:

From award-winning author Gareth L. Powell, the second book in the critically acclaimed Embers of War space opera series.

The former warship Trouble Dog and her crew follow a distress call from the human starship Lucy’s Ghost, whose crew have sought refuge aboard an abandoned generation ship launched ten thousand years before by an alien race. However, the enormous vessel contains deadly secrets of its own.

The Marble Armada calls for recovered war criminal Ona Sudak to accompany its ships as it spreads itself across the Human Generality, enforcing the peace with overwhelming and implacable force. Then Sudak’s vessel intercepts messages from the House of Reclamation and decides the Trouble Dog has a capacity for violence which cannot be allowed to endure.

As the Trouble Dog and her crew fight to save the crew of the Lucy’s Ghost, the ship finds herself caught between chaotic alien monsters on one side, and on the other, destruction at the hands of the Marble Armada.

REVIEW: FLEET OF KNIVES BY GARETH L. POWELL

Gareth L. Powell's Fleet of Knives is without any kind of doubt one of the best and most enjoyable space opera novels I've ever read. I haven't read anything as entertaining and rewarding as this novel since reading Iain M. Banks and Neal Asher. Considering the huge amount of space opera novels being published each year, it's amazing to find a novel as fresh, rich and enthralling as Fleet of Knives. It has all the elements one could ever hope to find in epic space opera and then some.

The author's previous novel, Embers of War, was excellent and rewarding, but Fleet of Knives is - on many levels - even more amazing and more rewarding a reading experience. Embers of War laid out the foundations for this novel and now the author delivers a stunningly engaging and vivid story that thrusts readers amidst happenings that will leave them wanting more. I consider this novel to be a perfect and fully satisfying sequel, because the author has created something special and has written a deep and fulfilling story in the best tradition of the genre.

In Embers of War, Gareth L. Powell introduced his readers to the sentient warship Trouble Dog, Ona Sudak and Sal Konstanz. Now the author continues their story and introduces new characters.

Fleet of Knives begins with Trouble Dog and Sal Konstanz taking time off from working for the House of Reclamation and coming to terms with what they had to do in the previous novel... The starship Lucy's Ghost is hit by something in the higher dimensional void. The crew doesn't know what happened, but they notice something moving outside the ship. As the starship drops out of the void into the normal space, the crew makes a distress call... Ona Sudak is about to be executed for her crimes, but is rescued. She finds out that the ships of the Marble Armada have requested her to help them in their mission... Trouble Dog and her crew investigate the distress call made by the crew of Lucy's Ghost and found out that the crew has sought refuge aboard an abandoned and derelict generation ship launched ten thousand years before by an alien race, the Nymtoq...

These events set the stage for a well-constructed and complex story. As the story begins to move forward, everything unfolds at a steady yet satisfyingly brisk pace. In the beginning, the author swiftly recaps what happened in the previous novel and then sets new events in motion. Because the author doesn't unnecessarily rush important things and lets everything develop naturally, the story is gripping and rewarding.

The characterisation is impressive, because the characters are realistic and have their own flaws. The human characters feel believable and the sentient ship feels surprisingly humane. What I love most about the characterisation is that the author allows his characters to develop and grow.

Here are a few words about the cast of characters:

- Trouble Dog is a fascinating sentient ship, because a human heart lurks at its heart (the stem cells of a dead woman were used to grow organic processors - brains - for a pack of warships and Trouble Dog was one of these ships). She has been through a lot, because she was betrayed and was forced to do something terrible in self-defence.

- Sal Konstanz has also done something that haunts her. Her mistake of not doing a risk assessment of the local fauna during a rescue mission cost another person's life, and she has ordered the death of a human being.

- Ona Sudak is a recovered war criminal who has done a despicable and ruthless thing during the war. This heinous act has marked her as a criminal in the eyes of many. Her life has not been easy, but she has managed to survive. She wonders about how the Marble Armada will be able to prevent conflict and why they need a person who is capable of slaughtering thousands.

- Johnny Schultz is the chief of the starship Lucy's Ghost. He keeps up an image about Lucky Johnny Schultz, because he has acquired a reputation for being lucky.

- Nod is a Druff. He's an alien engineer who is good at taking care of technical problems. His comments and thoughts about what is happenings are still as fresh and entertaining as in the first novel. He has his own unique and philosophical way of thinking about things that sets him apart from the other characters. I won't reveal any details about the events involving Nod, but I can mention that the author has quite a big surprise in store for readers.

It was fascinating to read about Ona Sudak and the Marble Armada. What the ships wanted and how they tried to preserve life was handled in an intriguing way, because the author explored war, violence, peace and good intentions from a thought-provoking angle. The author makes readers think about whether violence can ever be justified and used as a tool to enforce peace.

It's great that the author writes more about the Druff in this novel. The Druff are interesting aliens, because they're excellent engineers and can fix things. They serve as engineers on many spaceships, and they dream of their World Tree while being away from home.

The abandoned generation ship and the creatures from another dimension are a fascinating addition to the story. There's something about the strange creatures that kind of reminds me of Lovecraftian beings, because they're totally different from human beings and are not from our dimension. I also enjoyed reading about what happened to Lucy's Ghost and was impressed by what happened afterwards. It was interesting to read about how Trouble Dog was considered to be a weapon of war by the Marble Armada, because Trouble Dog gave the ships their purpose to preserve life.

I have to mention that this novel has the best short chapter I've ever encountered in science fiction. This chapter consists of only two words, but it's simply brilliant, because it encapsulates the frenzy of what is happening.

I find the author's writing style engaging. He writes gripping prose and has a way with words. He writes well about the different characters and gives them their own unique voices (I especially enjoyed reading about Ona Sudak and Sal Konstanz, because they're complex and deep characters, but I have to admit that Nod has a special place in my heart due to him being a totally different kind of a character).

Fleet of Knives is epic space opera at its finest and most imaginative. It's a complex and enjoyable tale about sentient spaceships, conflicts, war, aliens, different races, guilt and redemption. It presents readers with difficult questions and delivers thought-provoking answers, but also entertains readers with a deep and intimate look at the characters.

If you like your science fiction with realistic and flawed characters and enjoy novels with depth and thoughtful exploration of challenging themes, please do yourself a favour and read Fleet of Knives. This unputdownable novel is a veritable page-turner with a brilliantly realised story that grabs hold of the reader from the start.

Excellent space opera!

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