I've had the entire Beyond the Wall series gathering dust on my Kindle for a while now. I finally got around to reading Book 1, The Heretic, back over the summer and was impressed enough that I knew I'd eventually want to continue the series. Many readers have likened it to Firefly (may it rest in peace) and I couldn't agree more.
I was inspired to pick the series back up and start Defiance after reading Bale's installment in the recent speculative fiction anthology, Crime and Punishment. I was pleased to find that the book started out with a recap of everything that had happened in The Heretic, since it had been long enough since I'd read it that I was afraid I'd forgotten some of the important details. Then my eyes narrowed a little when I read the disclaimer that this book would be featuring an entirely new cast of characters and would not be a direct continuation of Book 1. No, I thought, I wanted to find out what happens. But I shrugged and pressed on anyway.
And I'm glad I did.
Those of you who know me and my writing could probably guess that I have a soft spot for bounty hunter/assassin-type characters and characters with red eyes, so when Defiance introduced us to two new characters with these traits, I got really excited. I was still a little disappointed that I wouldn't get to find out what was happening with Shepherd, the preacher, and the other characters from the first book, but Weaver and Natasha both captured my attention right off the bat. I should also mention that I have a soft spot for stories where characters -- especially equally-skilled characters -- are hunting each other (yeah, I'm kind of a morbid freak), so I found that dynamic really interesting. Natasha is intelligent and resourceful. Weaver is jaded and calculating. Both are inherently human and are therefore captivating and likable.
The story begins as sort of a classic cat-and-mouse detective story, with Weaver searching for Natasha after she committed a murder. He's always been very by-the-book, but the more he learns throughout his investigation, the more he begins to question everything he believes in. I found that interesting, having him be a member of the group that was (and still is) essentially the "bad guys" in the first book; you still find yourself rooting for him, but you're not necessarily hoping he fulfills his mission. You're hoping he learns the truth. Similarly, while evading her relentless pursuer(s), Natasha realizes she got more than she bargained for. Both characters end up attempting to uncover deadly secrets -- the same deadly secrets -- and their very lives depend on their ability to do so.
(I also have a soft spot for deadly secrets)
As with Book 1, Defiance leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger as these two characters' worlds finally collide (almost, anyway). Bits and pieces of information were revealed that hint at tie-ins with The Heretic and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how the whole story ends up coming together. But being as there's a fourth book in the works, I'm not sure if that's going to happen in Book 3 or not. I guess I just need to go find out ;)
This series was crafted very much like Hugh Howey's Silo trilogy, with the first two books introducing two seemingly separate stories that are finally connected in the final installment -- or in this case, installments. That definitely takes a lot of care and discipline on Bale's part. And now, since I have to work the word "spiffing" into this review just to annoy him.... Spiffing plot structure, sir!
About Lucas Bale:
Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, gripping science-fiction thrillers which make you miss your train. Stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us.
His bestselling debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the award-winning BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past.
He wasn't always a writer. He was a criminal lawyer for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn't pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he's happy. He blushes when people mention him in the same sentence as Banks, Heinlein, or Martin, bless him.
If you'd like to hear about new releases before everyone else, get advance review copies of those new releases and every short story he ever writes for free then subscribe to INSIDE, his semi-regular newsletter, here: www.lucasbale.com/inside
If Twitter is your thing, you'll find him at @balespen