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Liege-Killer, Ash Ock, and The Paratwa by Christopher Hinz

Angry Robot, ebook, £4.99 per book

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Re-released for a new audience, Christopher Hinz’s sci-fi classic series The Paratwa is as fresh today as it was when it was released.

Humanity’s hunger for greater technological advances has created the Paratwa, a single consciousness in two telepathically linked bodies. They are unstoppable assassins and, at the end of the 21st Century, nearly succeeded in making humans their slaves. Instead, humanity repelled the Paratwa and created E-Tech, a giant organisation responsible for safe-keeping the past’s tech information.  

Liege-Killer is the first book in the series. A hundred years after the last Paratwa were either destroyed or fled into space, Rome Franco is the current E-Tech director. An incident on Earth’s uninhabitable surface leads Franco to believe more of the assassins survived than anyone had believed possible. Humans may live in space in cylindrical settlements, but they have no weaponry capable of dealing with this sort of threat. Franco’s only option is to bring two Paratwa hunters out of stasis, Nick and Gillian. Nick is tech-savvy while Gillian is a soldier, capable of matching the Paratwa as an equal.

The story is a cat-and-mouse tale; for every discovery Nick and Gillian make about their old enemy in this new world, they release how far behind they actually are. Some of the Paratwa’s Royal Caste, their leaders known as the Ash Ock, (which is also the name of the second book), have survived and hidden in humanity, manipulating growth from behind the scenes. Nick and Gillian may be too late to stop the Paratwa.

Books 2 and 3 of the series, Ash Ock and The Paratwa, are really one story told over two books because it is so detailed and intense. Set fifty-six years after Liege-Killer, the Paratwa’s plans for enslaving humanity are ready to set in motion, and it is now or never. If Nick and Gillian can’t uncover the depth of the Paratwa’s plans, then humanity is doomed.

The story is told from both sides, the Paratwa antagonists and human protagonists. This means we understand how far the Paratwa have infiltrated society and the scale of the task facing Nick, Gillian and their allies. There aren’t too many viewpoints and combined with having both sides of the story, it is easy to keep track of events. However, at times, I found that a little laborious to read. At one point, we have the Ash Ock explain their future plans, then later, Nick reiterates this plan, close enough word for word that it stood out. There is also a significant amount of monologuing/explaining as the story progresses, with lots of history given late in the story arc. This slowed my reading speed precisely when it should have sped up, but I didn’t mind too much because the story needed those details to complete it.

The Paratwa are the story’s unique feature, and the parts that explain how two individuals can become one are complex. Each of the Paratwa’s tways, the individual bodies, has their own personality, but when they whelm, they become a third distinct personality. This is the hardest thing to work through, yet it’s essential to stick with it. The emotional aspect comes from understanding just how close the Paratwa’s individual bodies are, whether they’re connected or not. The sacrifices have greater depth when you understand exactly what is being lost.

This was my first time reading The Paratwa series in its entirety, and it’s clear to see why it has been re-released so many times. There is a strong mix of action and political intrigue with plenty of suspense. Even though we know who the enemies are, we’re not sure when they will act. This means The Paratwa series is an intense read, guaranteed to make you want just one more chapter. I can imagine my reread will reveal more intricacies and treachery than I had seen during this reading. Highly recommended.