The cover quote from Peter Hamilton says “Retribution Falls is the kind of old fashioned adventure I didn’t think we were allowed to write any more” and I think it’s very true. It’s mixture of strange lands, airships and magic cutlasses makes it at time feel like a fantasy novel, a steampunk novel and a swashbuckling adventure.
In essence the story is your classic “a job too good to be true” story that sees the crew of the Kitty Jay on the run from both the law and the Captain’s ex-girlfriend. And as the crew tries to clear their name and find out who set them up, they come to bond as a crew.
And yes, this does feel like Serenity. So much so, that for the first few pages, I found I couldn’t read it without thinking I was reading fanfic with the names changed. The comparison was so strong I was even able to make character substitutions. But as the chapters rolled by, I was able to see past the comparisons and find well-rounded interesting characters, that like our hero Frey, you come to love.
Don’t let the similarities ward you off reading this book though, because it’s something we rarely get in genre these days, a fun book. There’s certainly some deep characterisations and emotional depth to the book, but it’s trying to sell you an enjoyable and entertaining read rather than some ideal.
There are some bits that do feel shoehorned in. Fray’s cutlass gets a showing at the beginning then hardly gets mentioned until the end when it suddenly becomes of major importance. I also had an issue with Trinica Dracken’s backstory which is too long to go into here but is an issue wider than just this book concerning strong female characters that I’m preparing a separate blog post about.
For me, what this book is, is the SF I was missing as a teenager. As much as I tried to get into SF, I always found it a little dry (I still do, having just given up on an Ian M Banks novel.) But what Retribution Falls is, is an adventure. It’s fun, it paces along, it has some memorable characters, and really delivers what it sets out to. It’s certainly not the deepest book out there (although I thought the section on leg cramp very insightful) but you can’t fail to pick this book up and not enjoy it.