Saturday, 18 April 2009

Liam Sharp's God Killers

I'll state up front that I know Liam personally, so you can read this review in light of that bias. However, I will say that my bias only extends to the point that if I thought the book was a piece of crap, I wouldn't have reviewed it at all.

God Killers by Liam Sharp

An ambitious first novel that succeeds more often than it fails. Sharp's Machivarius Point, the main story (at 200 pages) in the book is what might have resulted if Robert E Howard and China Mieville had produced some strange offspring through eldritch means.

The main characters of Sharp's novel occupy the fictional space somewhere between David Gemmell's Druss and Ian Graham's Ballas. Much less heroic than Gemmell's flawed protagonists, Sharp's creations manage to be much more appealing than Graham's, both in terms of likability and with regard to the complexity of the characters.

Never short of ideas, possibly the biggest weakness of the story is that the rich tapestry Sharp weaves is not as fully explored as it could be. On the flip side, the narrative approach he has taken forces the reader to engage with the book on a more intellectual level and to that extent what might be a flaw according to traditional storytelling is perhaps a fascinating and not unsuccessful approach to bring a different approach to constructing a heroic fantasy saga.

At times a thoughtful meditation on the horrors of war, while simultaneously being a testosterone-fueled barbarian saga, the writing manages to transcend the apparent limitations of its genre and is one of the more literary approaches to this type of subject matter that I've read. Definitely not for the squeamish though, as should be expected from something with such a clear message that violence is not a pleasant business and certainly not a heroic one.

The remaining stories that take up the final part of the book continue to showcase Sharp's literary ability and range from the broad comedy of Death and the Myrmidon to the M John Harrison-inspired weirdness of Metawhal Alpha.

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