The Shattered Skies by J. Birmingham, a review

Hey guys, been a rough day around here. Eleven inches of snow last night, I spent all morning shoveling snow. Then I came in and finished The Shattered Skies by John Birmingham, the day before I had binged a bit while the snow fell. I tried to finish it in one day, but I kept falling into the trap of getting excited and skipping to see what happens next.

I didn’t want to do that with this book, it’s too good for careless reading. So, I forced myself to finish up today.

Glad I went through the extra effort, because:

BLUF: Better than Cruel Stars, which I five-starred.

Hold on. How do you get better than five stars.

It’s easy, you can’t. The Cruel Stars was an awesome book, great space opera played across a magnificent new universe and word canvas. However, I must say I always expect a bit of a let-down in the bridge novel of a trilogy because writing book number two is hard. I know this because I’m in the middle of penning a bridge novel myself, and I’ve done it a few times now.

Not easy to beat out book number one.

JB did it.

The Shattered Skies is brilliant, entertaining, and fast-moving. It was a real exercise in self-denial stopping last night, but I really didn’t want to squander the end of this book in a frenzy. I wanted to savor it.

I’m glad I did. This book pretty much kicked butts, and the ending was flawless, perfectly executed to keep you on the hook for book three, which hopefully is in the works already.

Let’s talk a little about The Shattered Skies, I wrote down a few impressions.

First, JB is a talented wordsmith. I love his turns of phrase. A few examples. “Strength foundry,” a space Nazi title for the lowly gym. This phrase: “…the second and a half needed to throw this whole potential fail cake into the oven and bake a delightful space Nazi smackdown.” “You’re missing one arm, half of your other hand, and you are riddled with holes.” “Fuckin’ flesh wound.” Shades of Monty Python. Hilarious. On point.

Second, JB showed his mastery of the form early with a seamless info dump as seen through the eyes of Captain Revell, a Sturm aide-de-camp and problem solver. Over on my patreon page I recently discussed how I’m not a big fan of long passages in continuation novels written strictly to bring the reader up to speed, well, JB does it here the right way. The standard-setting way. And oh by the way, he introduces us to a new character while doing so. (Claps.) Well done.

Finally, JB knows how to turn the screws on tension, and he can raise some decent laughs as well, especially with his Easter eggs, which range from Taylor Swift to Star Wars (“This is not the droid we’re looking for”). To touch back on tension, there is a long scene inside a moonlet which I felt and experienced as reminiscent of “Aliens.” The scene, which I will let you all discover, was profoundly eerie and claustrophobic.

And those examples were at the beginning of the book. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover and comment upon.

Suffice to say, JB hooked me in flawlessly and dragged me (or led me?) all the way to the conclusion.

Seriously, if you are a sci-fi fan you should read this.

I’d give this six stars, but that’ll break the meter.

Five Stars.

Go buy this book and blow off the snow shoveling. I wish I would have.


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