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Stormblood Paperback – 9 June 2020
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A captivating military sci-fi debut. Stormblood tells a splendid story about two brothers divided by war that is full of comradeship, actions, and conflict ― Novel Notions
A magnificent and explosive adrenaline-fest . . . Szal's debut is an absolute must read for fans of gritty, action-packed, detective and military SF ― Grimdark Magazine
Stormblood feels like a superb combination of the actions in Red Rising Saga and the world-building of Mass Effect. Exciting, thought-provoking, and full of incredibly intense moments. Military sci-fi readers would be treating themselves well by putting Stormblood on their radar ― Novel Notions
This frenetic, grisly sucker-punch of a book manages to be everything you could want from sci-fi, while also carving out its own niche with a rusty slingshiv. ― Fantasy Book Review
Szal's world is an insane, twisted place, and STORMBLOOD is one of the best scifi stories you'll ever read ― Rob Boffard
Razor sharp and vicious, Stormblood is an adrenaline-driven vision of a dark future. Highly recommended! ― Michael R. Fletcher
Vakov Fukasawa is a former soldier, addicted to the biotech inside his own body that makes him constantly crave for action. And there is plenty of action in this fast moving novel, but not at the expense of ideas, or of humanity, or of vivid descriptions of Szal's carefully imagined war-torn galaxy ― Chris Beckett
An intriguing mix of rich worldbuilding, meaty twists and ballistic ultraviolence ― SFX
Delivers visceral, bone-crunching fight sequences and a strong emotional core ― SFX
Highly recommended, a visceral trip into the darker side of SF. . .a rich setting replete with many alien races and a constant undertone of threat ― Jamie Sawyer, Author of THE LAZARUS WAR
The prose was visceral, the plot packed a punch and the emotional scenes aimed for the gut. Jeremy just burst through the door and blew away the competition with this powerful action sci-fi debut ― Gray Williams, author of END OF THE LINE
STORMBLOOD is sci-fi with an edge. It's a gritty, action-packed story that fans of Richard Morgan will eat right up, but it's got a ton of heart as well. The characters - especially Vakov - are exceptional, and the future-noir setting is extremely well-crafted. You'll want two things when you're finished this book: a glass of gin and a sequel. ― Nicholas Eames, author of KINGS OF THE WYLDE
Stormblood gets under your skin. It's like a prose torpedo packing a hefty payload of deep space opera noir, chrome-edged and irresistible ― Michael Cobley author of Humanity's Fire
From the Publisher
- Publisher : Gollancz; 1st edition (9 June 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1473227429
- ISBN-13 : 978-1473227422
- Dimensions : 15.4 x 5 x 23.2 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 240,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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This has the grittiness of Jonathan Littell's "Bad Voltage", as neon-soaked as Richard Morgan's "Altered Carbon", and enough hard sci-fi to satisfy Neal Asher fans.
Get on it! Can't wait for the next one!
Cleverly scripted, full of action and emotion and a fully fleshed out history and world that is familiar but far from cliched.
Everything about "Stormblood" is well crafted and the story just keeps going without being strained.
Check out Jeremy Szal's short fiction and you'll see that he has a talent for telling an incredible story in only a few pages, so to see a story spread over a novel without an ounce of drag or filler is a wonderful thing. Not all authors can make that transition.
Looking forward to many more!
Only, the war ended. Harmony had an army of battle-scarred super soldiers who were no longer needed to kill but had to integrate back into a normal civilisation once more, and a black market just waiting to get their hands on an almost irreversibly addictive drug.
Our protagonist Vak survived the war with Harmony and has alien tech all through his body—supercharging him and at the same time making him sometimes more a beast slaved to alien nature than man. Our story starts with Vak and his mate stealing from a local crime boss to help pay for his mate stay on Compass (the asteroid they call home) while in the back ground we start to hear about addiction to stormtech rising and addicts going mental on it.
Then the overdoses start happening not just to the addicts, but the soldiers who came back from the war and thought their stormtech under control—men and women our protagonist Vak went through hell with. People who should have been able to survive the urges. People Harmony were supposed to be helping manage to be a part of society, despite the stormtech and their mental war wounds.
Now, I’ll admit two things: Firstly, masses of soldiers being sent back into society after a big war and struggling to integrate is one of my favourite background stories to read–it works in fantasy just as well as science fiction, and always sets you up for a hard-bitten explosive story. So almost immediately I knew there was a good chance I was going to enjoy the foundation for this story as much as, say, Priest of Bones.
Secondly, this book is like a mixture of Altered Carbon and something I’ve not really read before, or even thought I wanted to read before, body horror (a lighter, non-sexual version of it, from the descriptions I can find online). And it bloody-well works. It creates a visceral experience that at times had me gritting my teeth and wincing–especially through a certain torture scene–and at other times sweating the action right alongside our hero.
With a solid foundational backstory, a heart-pumping opening, and a new genre splice I’d not read before, all Szal had to do was not take his foot off the accelerator from cover to cover to deliver an awesome reading experience. He doesn’t just do that, he mashes the pedal to the floor in a book that reads like an action movie but at the same time delivers such heart-wrenching and heart-warming relationships that enable him to deliver gut punches that hit home when it matters.
And this is a point I’d like to labour on a little. Vak’s relationships with Grimm and Katherine and his brother Artyom in the current timeline, and with his fireteam during the timeline that gives you a look at what the war with Harmony was like, are phenomenally written. By the end of it I was so engaged in the characters that Szal had my emotions on puppet strings. For such a young author to write such engaging characters speaks of more life experience than he could surely have. I can’t say enough good stuff about how engaging Szal’s relationships in Stormblood are.
Stormblood is a magnificent and explosive adrenaline-fest that ends with an absolute gut-punch that ties all the threads back into one tear-inducing moment. Szal’s debut is an absolute must read for fans of gritty, action-packed, detective / military SF. Whatever book two is, I’m in.
The main character is a broken mess of a man, and as his backstory and personality peels away, you root for him more and more on his quest as he goes through absolute hell to do right by the people he loves. can't wait for the next book.
Top reviews from other countries
Vakov is wonderfully depicted multi-layered character. He is a witty and charming individual who is unafraid to embrace his emotions. The war against the savage Harvesters may have ended but he still fights a daily battle against stormtech addiction. I found his story very moving. Accompanying Vakov on his difficult journey to overcoming PTSD and addiction, stopping the Reaper murders and possibly saving his brother is a handful of supporting characters. The two closest to him are the good-natured Grim, a hacker with a penchant for mischief and the unrelenting Katherine Kowalski, a Harmony operative and kindred-spirit. Both are well developed characters that not only serve to support Vakov but have stories of their own which are central to the plot in many ways. There are a handful more, the standout being Juvens, an alien Space Marshall with charming bluntness, serious pilot skills and horns. All in all, Stormblood boasts a great cast of characters.
One of the main other things I loved about this book is the setting. Compass is a towering space station of multiple cities sitting on top of each other in a hollowed-out asteroid. Each floor is thematic in nature, from the slum-built Changhao at the base of the asteroid and the derelict Warren home to stormtech dealers, to the labyrinth Upper Market and affluent paradise of Cloudstern at the top. Compass acts as a capital of sorts for the Common, a galactic commonwealth of alien races trying to live coexistent lives. The space station's denizens may not be as diverse as its multi-tiered levels, with only a handful getting page time, but this works well as it keeps the narrative tight. I have no doubt that we will get to learn more about these races and others in subsequent books. Also, I must mention the really cool yet sometimes disturbing technology that can be found throughout the novel. There is of course the stormtech and the various mutations it can cause to those it infects. There are also suits of armor that attach themselves to the wearer's skin, guns that 3D-print bullets as they fire and military-grade defence systems that create rooms from the DNA and biometrics of their owners. Like I said, cool and disturbing.
I also want to acknowledge the perfectly balanced nature of the plot, shifting naturally between detective thriller and military sci-fi fantasy. The former creates an atmosphere of suspense as Vakov begins to unravel the mystery of the Reaper murders while the latter delivers some of the coolest, blood-pumping tense firefights I have read in a sci-fi novel (and I have read a lot of Warhammer). I particularly enjoyed Vakov's flashbacks to the Harvester War which serves as the basis for some of the novel's most intense action, explores the sense of camaraderie that is so fundamental to Vakov's character and which shows the horrifying process of addiction that the stormtech forces upon its host.
I read this in two sittings with eight cups of tea, half of which had gone cold by the time I took a sip, so enamoured was I in Vakov's story and the world Szal has created. Stormblood is a fantastic debut. I cannot wait to see what comes next. Jeremy Szal, you have yourself a fan.
But I have to say I found this book to be far too long at 531 pages, and believe me those pages are word crammed. I can't help but think this story might have actually been gripping if it were condensed to around two thirds its size. Even before the halfway point, I was simply bored with the abundance of times (I actually lost count, 4? 5? More?) the main character stumbled into being captured by one set of bad guys or another, get beaten or tortured close to death and then manage to escape. Sorry, but it just got tedious.
The forward momentum in this book is also very slow, it felt like everything else was just an excuse to show off the main character.
And the most irritating thing, to the point of swearing out loud, was the dozens of stray words that kept cropping up all over the place! The copy editor for this book needs shooting!
I'm sorry Jeremy, this one just didn't hit the spot for me.
So, Stormblood by Jeremy Szal is a military sci-fi story and I always felt that having the words 'military sci-fi' in the description or genre tag meant it would be less fun than a sci-fi only sotry because it would potentially have lots of military jargon taking away the fun and speed of the story but thankfully this is not the case at all.
Stormblood follows Vakov Fukasawa. Vakov is a super soldier who had previously been injected with alien DNA to help fight off Harvest, an enemy force in a previous war. Now the war has ended and Vakov has walked away from Harmony, the people responsible for injecting him with the alien DNA. Only walking away isn’t that easy and Vakov finds himself pulled back into a war on the streets surrounding the very drug he had been injected with as he hears of old colleagues being murdered and family members dragged in for questioning.
“It’s amazing how well you sleep when you’ve got a military-grade, high-velocity autocannon watching your flank.”
Jeremy does a really good job of building what I would call a 'hub' in Stormblood. Compass is a giant asteroid which has been mined out and is now host to thousands of lives from different races across the universe. It’s kind of like the citadel from Mass Effect which brings me onto another point. Stormblood has a Mass Effect feel to it and I love it. The other alien races really give you a grander feel for the universe he is creating. I expect in Blindspace we will see and hear more about other alien races since he touches on them in this story. The areas on the asteroid that Jeremy creates are full of life from casinos to bars to restaurants to apartments and workshops. They are all described well in enough detail to let you form an image in your imagination which of course brings it all to life.
The story did feel slow at first and the best way I can describe this is if you’ve ever been on a rollercoaster that goes up slowly then goes down at speed. I felt that the start of the story was worldbuilding and creating depth to Vakov which was fine and then Jeremy takes it off the rails and that’s when I felt I couldn't put this book down.
I loved the story and thought it was a really unique and interesting concept. I won't give away any spoilers but the story plays out like a science fiction detective story but with lots of pain, death, brutality, tense scenes and oh shit! moments. I really enjoyed it.
Vakov as a protagonist was great. I felt that he had a good personality to him and this was super important since the book is told in a first person perspective. I felt that he had a soft side which stayed hidden but slowly came out as bonds were made with new characters once Vakov felt he could trust them or he felt like he had no choice but to share information with them. I really liked the way Vakov talked about the Stormtech (alien DNA) inside his body which let me know exactly how it was affecting him.
There were a lot of secondary characters or characters that played supporting roles and I found that these all played a part in driving the story forward. I really hope that some of these come back for Blindspace and have no doubt that Jeremy will kill some of these off causing me to send him a rude tweet.
The whole idea that alien DNA is put into Vakov’s and others’ bodies is a really cool idea and I loved it. It was brilliant to see how it worked and how people can take too much of it and overdose. The idea that this was being used for a drug war on the streets was a really neat idea and was executed really well.
Rating - 4/5 Stormblood is an exciting debut novel which pushes the boundaries of what pain and trauma you think the main character can take in a brutal world. The Stormtech is a wholly unique idea that is used so well to help craft a brilliant story with rapid, heart pounding prose. Jeremy's imagination is scary as he invents ways to make you wince as you ride through the story as a passenger on a virtual reality ride through hell.