Creation Machine | Andrew Bannister | 2016 (19 May) | Bantam Press | 336p | Review copy | Buy the book
The Spin is a vast artificial galaxy built longer ago than anyone can comprehend by a long gone alien species for an unknown reason. It is now the home to humans at war – the Hegemony versus the rebellion led by the Society Otherwise. The winners are the Hegemony, heralding a return to a totalitarian darkness. One of the leaders of the Hegemony is the immensely wealthy and powerful industrialist Vikun Haas. Once Haas had a family that he tried to love. But now, in his determination to destroy the rebellion, he has no second thoughts about starting with the destruction of one of its soldiers, his daughter Fleare Haas.
The Hegemony is now in possession of a deadly weapon, a relic left by the builders of the Spin. Fleare and her fellow disbanded and dispersed soldiers must do everything they can to stop them using it. The Soc Os do have something up their sleeves. As part of the process of becoming soldiers they were each genetically modified, enhanced – changed – and some of them in ways others do not even understand. They’re going to need all the help they can get as they move around the worlds of the Spin in a dangerous cat and mouse chase with everything at stake.
Creation Machine is the first novel in a trilogy by debut author Andrew Bannister. It has some very intriguing elements, not least some of the genetic changes that have been made to our unlikely band of heroes. Muz in particular is a fascinating, memorable creation, existing as a bunch of sentient atoms (‘a floating talking cloud’), configurable into any shape, defying all the laws of science. He’s also, and he’s the first to admit it, psychotic.
The other highlight of the novel is its environments. We’re taken to a host of different worlds, some very alien and some with the most extraordinary fauna and flora. There are eels here that I’m not going to forget in a hurry. Mind you, some of the animals might be bad but a fair few of the humans are worse.
While I enjoyed aspects of the novel, recognising that much here could be developed in all kinds of fascinating ways, I did have some issues. The idea of artificial star systems or planets sometimes with hidden alien artefacts is not a new one and an author has a lot to do to make his or her take on this stand out. Bannister goes some way towards this with his Soc O soldiers and he certainly knows how to depict strange worlds, but as a whole the novel did fall short for me and did plod along at times. This also holds true for its theme of a megalomaniac powerful father and a renegade heroic (albeit flawed) child – another familiar idea that kept reminding me of other books as I was reading. It must also be said that there is little light in this rigid, stern and uniformed universe – and I don’t think the dildo joke early in the novel did it any favours.
Nevertheless, Creation Machine is an intriguing debut novel. I liked Fleare and Bannister is to be congratulated for his creation of that unpredictable, anarchic talking cloud.