cover image The Machine Awakes

The Machine Awakes

Adam Christopher. Tor, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7640-4

Christopher’s uneven second Spider Wars novel (after The Burning Dark) grinds gears as it shifts from space horror to espionage and adventure. As the war continues against the Spiders, “organo-mechanical” creatures vulnerable to psychic attacks, spy Von Kodiak is recalled from his deep-cover mission after the space fleet’s admiral is assassinated. The investigation leads Kodiak to an AWOL Psi-Marine trainee named Caitlin whose brother recently died in battle, and then to a conspiracy involving religious fanatics and the entire military-industrial complex. While Christopher’s characters are generally rich and interesting, his plot too often relies on contrivances and convenience, and his sense of narrative flow is often baffling: a major villain isn’t even mentioned, let alone introduced, until over halfway into the book, and the multiple chapters spent on the aborted mission Kodiak is rather ludicrously pulled from do nothing to develop his personality. There are still plenty of entertaining action sequences (an interrogation interrupted by yet another assassination is staged particularly well), and the rest isn’t bad so much as underwhelming. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary. (Apr.)