Weird Space: The Baba Yaga | Eric Brown and Una McCormack | 2015 | Abaddon Books | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book
Humanity has spread to the stars, its planets known as the Expansion, ruled by a central intelligence bureau. The Expansion has been blighted by years of war against the alien Vetch but at last there is a peace of sorts, encouraged by an even greater threat – the Weird. While the Vetch are different from humans in so many ways, the Weird are entirely alien and unknowable, tearing to pieces (literally) the entire populations of planets, all except for the few that they enslave. When bloody film footage confirms that the distant colony of Braun’s World has been infiltrated, slaughtered and compromised, it is the last straw for the Expansion’s government, which is ripped apart in the argument between those who believe a way must be found to communicate with the Weird and those who want all out war. They want more than war – they want all citizens to be screened for signs of Weird influence and anyone – or any planet – that has been in contact with the Weird to be blown out of the heavens.
Delia Walker is one of those who wants to find peace with the Weird through communication. She leaves the Expansion and heads into Satan’s Reach, a lawless stretch of space where there are guns for hire and where rumours persist of a planet, an Eden, on which the Weird, the Vetch and humans have found a way to co-exist. Also on her way into Satan’s Reach is a woman and her child who need to stay lost – Maria is a colonist of Braun’s World, running for her life, with the Expansion’s forces on her tail, determined to annihilate anything that might have escaped Braun’s World.
The Baba Yaga is a stand alone novel set within the Weird Space universe created by Eric Brown and now taken on by Una McCormack. No knowledge of the other novels (The Devil’s Nebula and Satan’s Reach) is needed. The Baba Yaga does a fine job of filling in any necessary back history – as well as mood – and its story is very easy to pick up. Indeed, this is not a complicated novel. What it is, though, is a very enjoyable and atmospheric adventure which, especially in the final third, contains some stand out moments.
There are some great characters here, especially Delia Walker, her odious pilot, and, my particular favourite, Failt, a young Vetch child and stowaway who manages to charm in a way that reminded me of Haile the juvenile Kiint alien in Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy. Although some sections are better than others, The Baba Yaga becomes increasingly exciting, its conspiracies giving way to thrills and its baddies becoming more and more inhuman as we move away from known worlds and space stations and reach into the unknown. I thoroughly enjoyed where The Baba Yaga (the book and the ship) took us.
Weird Space really is a fascinating universe with endless possibilities and Una McCormack has done a good job of taking on the mantle of Eric Brown, one of my favourite writers of science fiction. Fortunately, I have Satan’s Reach on the TBR mountain. After reading The Baba Yaga I’ll be sure to push it up!