Title: Redspace Rising
Author: Brian Trent
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
Publication date: September 13, 2022
Genre: Science Fiction
One Sentence Summary: Harris Alexander Pope has been undercover with the Partisans for 20 years, but the Order has reactivated him and now he’s on a mission to hunt down the Partisan leaders while everyone around him plots and plans.
Redspace Rising is an incredible, fast-paced military science fiction novel with a good dose of humor sprinkled in at some of the most unexpected times. The story boils down to something quite simple, but the plans and manipulations that underlay it all created a number of moving points and felt like it depended on Harris Alexander Pope being who he is: a soldier. There’s a great deal of bloody violence and a great deal of things at stake. Nothing felt easy, and nothing seemed to go quite the way Harris planned. But he was an amazing narrator to follow, and it was great to meet new and old faces through his eyes. Overall, Redspace Rising is just as stunning as the first book, Ten Thousand Thunders, and offers a breathtaking expansion to both the world and the cast of characters.
For the past twenty years, Harris Alexander Pope has been a soldier for the Partisans. Until he’s reactivated by the Order of Stone, who sent him deep undercover in order to take out the Partisans from Mars once and for all. Harris, the consummate soldier who has been upgraded to the gills, completes his mission, taking out the Partisan leadership and saving Mars from their clutches, only to lose the most wanted man in the universe, Gethin Bryce, and his lover, Umerah Javed. Still, Mars is free and back under the command of the more peaceful Order of Stone, until disturbing news reaches the Order and Harris must be re-deployed to hunt down leaders who have come back in new bodies, uncovering more than one disturbing secret that has been kept from him for too long.
Redspace Rising is, in a way, a sequel to Ten Thousand Thunders, which followed Gethin Bryce and Celeste Segarra, but, considering it’s been a couple of years since I read it, I feel safe saying this could be read as a standalone. While Gethin and Celeste play important roles in Redspace Rising, this is told by soldier Harris Alexander Pope, lending the story a uniquely humorous voice that paired well with all the military action. This is an incredible, compelling science fiction novel where the science was never above my head and the military action just never seems to cease. There’s a lot packed into this story, and sometimes it felt like it was just growing more and more horrifying, but also showed the lengths to which people will go to hold power, even if it means reshaping people’s lives and the fabric of their souls.
First, the groundwork for this novel must be laid. Redspace Rising is set a number of years into the future; so far, in fact, that a new calendar has been used for a few hundred years. Humans have spread throughout the galaxy, but are banned from colonizing beyond Neptune. The IPC controls the galaxy, except for Mars, which has successfully seceded from it, much to their consternation. For all the good the IPC does in supporting all the colonies across planets and moons, they have their own secret plans. Back on Mars, the Partisans and the Order of Stone have stemmed from the same goal: a free Mars, which is now threatened by a new vote about to take place of whether it will return to the IPC, which will have some effect on whether the IPC votes to overturn the ban preventing humans from colonizing beyond Neptune. The Partisans are in power, using things like force and torture to keep control. The more peaceful Order of Stone will do anything to destroy them. Literally anything.
In comes Harris Alexander Pope and his brother David. Harris willingly agrees to go deep undercover with the Partisans for the sole purpose of destroying their leadership when reactivated by the Order. For 20 years, he’s the consummate soldier, advancing and receiving specialized training as well as upgrades to his body to make him more than human. And no need to worry about death, because a new body can just be printed and his entire being downloaded into it, as long as his consciousness has been Saved, of course. As a result, Harris is deadly and hell bent on completing his missions. At the same time, he has a particularly funny brand of humor, which is lightly peppered throughout the story, offering brief moments of levity that this novel needed. But Harris also loves his younger brother David, especially since their parents were killed by the Partisans. Since Redspace Rising is told by Harris, we only get Harris’s perspective of how he sees his brother. It was a little difficult to get to know David, but he’s clearly successful and will do anything to protect the goal of a free Mars. He’s as single-minded about it as Harris is about completing his mission, whatever it is. And yet there’s something odd about their relationship, which my mind kept picking at even if Harris didn’t quite see how odd it was.
Redspace Rising is an incredible military science fiction novel that I didn’t want to put down. Usually, I find science fiction only partly understandable and military fiction too horrific for me, but, since this is told by a soldier with a very amusing voice, it all made a lot more sense to become something enjoyable. There’s more of an emphasis on the doing than the science behind everything. At the same time, this is much more violent than I’m used to. There seems to be a major battle every few chapters, and Harris never seems to be able to catch a break. Yet, because of the way being re-downloaded into a new body works, he technically does. But Harris’s story just never stops. It barrels forward no matter what, no matter who gets in the way, and no matter what Harris feels about any of it. But, for as violent it is and as much as it’s constantly marching forward, there’s a delightful humor woven through. It’s here and there, and pops up both when expected and when not expected. I found myself utterly charmed and delighted by it, especially since it lent Harris a distinctive, compelling voice. Because he’s a soldier, he’s very matter-of-fact about what he does and about attacking and killing his foes, but then there’s a drip of humor here and there. I found it kept me hooked, kept me looking for those little nuggets that just absolutely delighted me and made a part of my brain light up.
The storytelling is incredible. The story is constantly moving, even when Harris isn’t. Military science fiction is not my thing, but I absolutely loved this book. It’s intense and fast and something is always happening, and Harris always has to be the one to do it. I loved that nothing was easy for him. He’s clearly an incredibly competent man, but there’s also a softness in his heart, one that made my heart hurt for him and just long for one thing to go his way. There are so many plots and plans, both by the Partisans and the Order and even the IPC, that it felt like it was never going to stop, but it all really boiled down to one thing: a free Mars. I loved the utter simplicity of it, and yet nothing about it was actually simple. There are a lot of moving pieces and a lot of manipulation. I hated that it made Harris seem like little more than a lackey, doing as his superiors wish all because of what he believes to be right and wrong, but he also had a good deal of agency. There were points where he was given choices, given opportunities, but he was always true to himself, and I think I loved that best about him.
Where Ten Thousand Thunders was more about Earth and laying a good groundwork for this and, hopefully, future novels, Redspace Rising was all about Mars. Much of it is set on Mars, and I loved getting to know the history of its colonization as well as what it looked like. I felt it made good use of the Martian geography, describing where and how people lived and worked. I especially loved that it worked in the difference in gravity compared to Earth, impacting what the characters were capable of doing. But I really loved the detail that went into how Mars was made habitable. I don’t understand all the science that went into how it all worked, but I felt that was okay considering the narrator is a soldier less inclined to going into how this piece and that piece worked. The storytelling was very much focused on the action and the plotting.
One of my favorite parts of this was getting to see Gethin and Celeste again. I hated having to end their story when I finished Ten Thousand Thunders, so I was thrilled to see them again. They’re not the main characters, but they do play major roles, and it was great to see how they did and didn’t change between the two novels. Despite all the danger and dangerous situations all of them were placed in, a part of me always felt Gethin and Celeste would be okay, that their story could not be finished. Redspace Rising definitely didn’t spare them, making my breath catch several times, especially as the story wound to it’s conclusion, which was incredible and breathtaking, and the very end completely delighted me, injecting a final piece of humor that just defined so much of this book.
Redspace Rising is an intense, compelling military science fiction novel where the action never stops, the plots and manipulations are always a constant undertone, and the meeting of old and new faces both offers continuity and an expansion of the story. This was just as stunning as the first book, though I found the science much more accessible and the action a lot more fun. My heart twisted and turned for Harris, so despite all the terrible deeds he had to do, I found him to be sympathetic and I only wanted the best ending for him. I loved how Redspace Rising offers more to the story, expending the world and cast of characters, and I hope there will be more in the future.
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