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Ravenor Returned
Dan Abnett
Black Library Publications, 306 pages

Ravenor Returned
Dan Abnett
Dan Abnett lives and works in Maidstone, Kent. After graduating from Oxford, he worked for a while as an editor of comics and children's books before turning to writing full time. In the dozen or so years since then, he has written for such a diverse range of characters -- including Scooby Doo, Thunderbirds, Conan the Barbarian, the X-Men, Johnny Bravo, Batman, Rupert the Bear, Dr Who, Mr Men, The Terminator and Postman Pat -- that he is now clinically bewildered. He created the popular series Sinister Dexter, which he continues to write, along with other strips, for 2000 AD, and has recently helped rejuvenate the Legion of Superheroes for DC Comics.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Titan: God-Machine
SF Site Review: Ravenor
SF Site Review: Riders of the Dead

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'The Brass Thief rose to its feet. Smoke poured off it, gusted from its awakening. It was thin, wrapped in segmented plates of gold and brass, faceless but for eye slits in the high-crested helm.

"The incunabula is awake," Keener whispered.

"Tell it to feast," Culzean said.'

Having narrowly survived their encounter with agents trafficking in the addictive glass shards known as flects, Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor and his team limp back to where their problems began; Eustice Majoris. Ravenor is an unusual lead character, in that he is a paraplegic, confined to a fully enclosed support chair. This severe physical disability is offset by his formidable psyker powers, which enable him to roam in an etheric form, or wear the flesh of one of his team. Ravenor is also able to make free use of his agents senses as they go about their undercover tasks, hunting for what they suspect is a conspiracy that goes right to the top of government. Adding subplot meat to this already sumptuous feast, is a prophecy concerning a being named Slyte, the local equivalent to the anti-christ. Suspicion falls on Zael, a young man who has been taken in by Ravenor's band. Slyte's incarnation is being actively assisted by a murderous, and quite mad, religious sect. Meanwhile, the real movers and shakers behind the grand conspiracy, named Contract Thirteen, are working on the development of a lexicon based on a legendary, reality warping anti-language; Enuncia.

As with his previous work, Dan Abnett entertains from the ground up. Everyday objects and occupations are renamed, but always using logical evolutions of language. Computers become cogitators, doctors are medicae. Great care has also been taken when naming entirely fictitious things, such as the weapons, vehicles and various official institutions. Because the background fabric fits so comfortably, it's that much easier to slip into this world. The impression formed is of a society that is a long way from ours, culturally and technologically, yet includes much that is familiar in terms of the way humanity works. Abnett saves his best names for his characters, which include Wystan Frauka, Kara Swole and Patience Kys. Also present is Sholto Unwerth, a gloriously unctuous supporting character. Unwerth's enthusiastic, unwitting, strangulation of the English language, provides moments of frivolity. The older hands are eventually joined by two worthy newcomers, former military Medicae Belknap, and a disgruntled, disenfranchised local magistrate named Maud Plyton.

Even more tense than the last novel, Ravenor's team are set on a collision course against the statutory impossible odds. Including an old enemy thought to be long dead. The outcome can be predicted, but the real fun is in how we get there. There's also a keener sense of mortality, and a greater use of brains over brawn. Not that Ravenor Returned is without action. In fact, the cinematic scope and dizzying vision we're shown puts most of the recent SF movie epics into deep shadow. Abnett has also been astute in working out which of his original cast could be selected to bite the silver bullet, and which members to place in danger for maximum effect. This time around, two of the main players exhibit serious, potentially fatal weaknesses, both of which have a nicely twisted outcome. Some of the ideas in this novel were brilliantly conceived, and it would be a shame if they did not reappear. Fortunately, the future is left wide open for the products of Abnett's intense imagination. The smart money is on him continuing to deliver.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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