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Warren Fahy
Tor, 306 pages

Warren Fahy
Warren Fahy has been a bookseller, a statistical analyst, and managing editor of a video database, where he wrote hundreds of movie reviews for a nationally syndicated column. He is currently the lead writer for Wowwee, generating creative content for their line of advanced robotic toys. He lives in San Diego, California.

Warren Fahy Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Fragment

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson practised moving for twenty years to reach their astonishing level of prowess. Kuzu had practised for ninety thousand years. What he could do was magic to human beings.'
A couple of years on from his debut novel, Fragment, author Warren Fahy returns with a direct sequel picking up not long after the first book ended. This time the premise centres around Pobedograd, a large underground city located deep beneath the Ural Mountains, carved by slave labour on the orders of Stalin during the Cold War. The city includes windows onto an entire subterranean ecosystem, the primary feature of which is an enormous lake that is home to bizarre species which have survived undetected, until now. Into this sunless world come newly married biologists -- and Henders Island survivors -- Nell and Geoffrey Binswanger. The pair are lured by the promises of Russian billionaire Maxim Dragolovich, and the chance to observe first hand the scientific wonders that he now owns. Stalin thought it was Hell, but the place is now called Pandemonium.

Looking through the rose-tinted spectacles of time, I regard Fragment with more fondness than may be apparent from my review. Warren Fahy's ideas were always exciting, it's the execution with which I took issue, and to some extent the same is true of Pandemonium. Like a magician who is famous for a particular trick, he can't resist trying to pull it off twice. But, to give credit where it's due, the sheer spectacle presented by Pandemonium and the underground city that guards it is well realised. Similarly, the pseudo-science employed by the author is, I believe, convincing to all of us who are not highly qualified experts in biology. Once again, it is the involvement of Henders Island life forms that takes star billing, initially via a timely reminder as to how dangerous Henders creatures can be to everything else. We're also brought up to date with the fate of the Hendros, who begin the story as virtual captives quartered at Area 51. The Hendros are now world famous via their interactions with humanity across the Internet. Before the main action begins, Hender, the most personable of the Hendros, is allowed to go on a trip abroad and begins to meet more humans. These include a religious leader and a would-be assassin. Both encounters are entirely predictable, but no less fun to read.

Meanwhile, we learn that specimens of Henders organisms have been acquired as a potential WMD by Maxim Dragolovich, the self styled benevolent dictator of Pobedograd. It comes as no great surprise to learn that they have proven more than a match to his attempts at controlling them. The same is true to a lesser degree with the denizens of the Pandemonium ecosystem, dangerous amphibious examples of which have begun to infest the many tunnels of the city. Once it becomes clear that Dragolovich is behind the disappearance of the two American scientists, and that he is in possession of Henders life-forms, a mission is thrown together. The team includes the obligatory military specialists, equally obligatory scientists, plus two of the Hendros. One of them is an historian, the other a soldier, both have tens of thousands of years experience. Panicked authorities allow the team just a few hours to find and rescue the missing scientists, and if possible arrest Maxim Dragolovich, before explosives are used to seal off Pandemonium forever.

There is a lot to like here. Hender and Kuzu, the two featured Hendros come across well, and so do the twin ecosystems with their many fascinating and ingeniously imagineered life-forms. As with Fragment, this novel is very readable and could be made into a superb FX-laden action movie. What lets it down are the elements of the plot that link the flashes of brilliance. Characterisation is mostly off the peg, and some plot devices are poor. For example, would two highly intelligent scientists really run off with a dodgy Russian oligarch on the eve of their honeymoon? Then later, a shady group within a powerful government who want to kill the Hendros, apparently just give up because one attempt fails. Also, it must be said, if any militaristic county -- especially the US -- ever got their hands on a resource like the Hendros, it is unrealistic to think that they would ever willingly release them. But most disappointing was that virtually from their introduction it's blatantly obvious how the author intends to collide his most fantastical creations. So, the deal here is that if you loved Fragment, this is more of the same fast and furious killer critter fun. Also, like Fragment, it's a good novel that falls short of greatness.

Copyright © 2013 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

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