Angry Robot, pb, £8.46
Reviewed by Martin Willoughby
Gary is a half-unicorn. His mother was human, his father the unicorn. He, like all other fantasy creatures, the Bala, have now been moved to a new world away from the Humans who had kept them enslaved for a century. They were moved by the Pymmie, a race of super beings who keep watch on the galaxy. (Imagine Star Trek’s Q Continuum, but without the sense of humour and even less responsibility). Is it peaceful on this planet with no name? Like hell it is. Half of the Bala want to return to their ‘comfortable’ lives in the reason, the other half don’t. The remaining five stoneships, though, are having a whale of a time with only their dwarf crew onboard, flying in formation around the planet, it’s moons and in the atmosphere.
Jenny is a wheelchair bound human trying to get to the planet of the Bala where her wife, a Dryad, is now living. She realises she has little chance of finding it before she dies of old age, but is determined to do so. Assuming she doesn’t get eaten by the cannibalistic crew of the generation ship she comes across that has some unicorn horn to power her Faster Than Light drive and get her to Bala. She has only the ship’s AI for company, though the two of them do strike up a friendship with Govvie, the AI of the generation ship. Will she survive? Of course she does, but picks up a ghost-like hitchhiker in her body.
A new human ship, the Kilonova, has just left Reasonspace (the Human empire) with the last piece of Unicorn horn known to exist. It’s mission is to find where the Bala are and bring them all back as the Reason is collapsing. With the humans having to work for a change instead of relying on their slaves, nothing is working properly. The captain, however, has something to hide and leaves ahead of schedule.
And that gets you to about page 100. The remaining two hundred pages are a mix of adventure, humour, fights, double-dealing, mysticism and good storytelling. I liked this book even more than the previous one. I could not find a wasted word anywhere and stayed up late to finish it.
To the readers of this review: Buy it. It’s a mix of fantasy, sci-fi and humour, well written, with good characterisation and very well described setting. You do not need to have read the previous book, Space Unicorn Blues, to get the most out of this, but that book is still well worth reading and could be read after this one if you wish.
The humour is a mix of sarcasm and darkness, highly appropriate in the circumstances, while the ending ties up the loose ends well, while still leaving space for another book to follow this one. In between all this, Gary fights to keep the new Bala settlement together, gets kidnapped, breaks free, nearly dissolves in a lake and has to deal with his father who thinks every other Bala should worship him as they did in the old days. Jenny gets sucked out into space, rips the Kilanova apart and tries to keep herself hidden.
Berry has managed to combine the disparate elements in a fascinating way that leaves the reader, me in this case, wanting more. The pace does let up at times and at those points, gaps are filled in, backstories told and the universe filled out. Buy it. You won’t be disappointed.