Thursday, 27 September 2007

‘The Last Legion’ – Chris Bunch (Orbit Books)

Other than ‘The Children of Hurin’ this is the only review I’ve written where the author in question is no longer with us. Chris Bunch died in 2005 but his work still seems to be finding its way onto the bookshelves. ‘The Last Legion’ is the first in a new series that tells the tale of the collapse of the human galactic confederation and the effect that this has on a set of planets on the frontier. Frontier life isn’t easy at the best of times but the confederations collapse means that a sudden grab for power will be made by more than one faction. Not a good time for two new recruits to start their new posting…
For what is essentially light ‘military sci-fi’, ‘The Last Legion’ was a really hard book for me to get a handle on. There is plenty to recommend it but there are also plenty of reasons to put it down and never pick it up again. The good and bad bits go hand in hand with each other, sometimes to the extent where the varying quality of alternate sentences can leave you really confused.
There’s plenty of action, ‘military speak’ and technology with cool names for people who like that sort of thing. The pace doesn’t let up and you can find yourself being caught in the current and swept along. The problem though is that while you’re being swept along you find yourself hitting all sorts of obstacles and having to start again. For a start, I’ve never read a book with so many typos and spelling mistakes, maybe without an author (to consult with) the editing process can be subject to short cuts? I don’t know. What also makes ‘The Last Legion’ a confusing read is the proliferation of military ranks (using mostly made up words) that aren’t fully explained as well as trying to fit the cast of an eight hundred page novel into a book half the size. A book that is meant to be a fun read becomes really stilted and awkward, not fun at all.
Having said all that, the banter between our two recruits is engaging and shows promise for the future. It’s a shame then that their continued displays of sexual prowess eventually become cartoon-like and finally just tedious. Sometimes, less really is more!
The patchy moments of good writing show the potential that this series could have but it wasn’t enough for me I’m afraid. ‘The Last Legion’ had a real draft-like quality to it that left me cold, hopefully the only way for the rest of the series is up.

Three out of Ten

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