Book Review – Timberwolf: Symmetry by Tom Julian

I really love sci-fi that doesn’t pull punches. All too often, sci-fi stories show a humanity that’s evolved beyond our petty differences and everyone comes together to fight some alien monster that represents our past prejudices or fears. Reality will probably be far different. We’ll likely upgrade our differences along with our tech and entrench our worst natures even further in the face of an emotionless void.

Back in 2015 – in the before times, in the long, long ago – Tom Julian released the first installation of what would become the Timberwolf saga. Now, five years seems like a long time, like Julian was pulling a Martin and painting his house, but the extended cook time has yielded the beginnings of what looks like it’ll be a great space opera. Think Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction series or Alistair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series. Gritty, nasty stories filled with less-than-stellar people doing what less-than-stellar people do best.

The basic gist of Timberwolf was a war between religious zealots, giant spiders, and everyone else who just wanted the religious zealots and giant spiders to go the hell away. Like all good wars, the war of Timberwolf didn’t end, so much as shift in ways no one expected it to. Now, in addition to the religious zealots and giant spiders, new elements have been added: the last remaining brother of Highland and a race of giant cats that were stuck in time for a few million years.

While Timberwolf itself was a complete story, it really worked as an intro to the larger story arc. It set up all the pieces and got the conflict going. Timberwolf: Symmetry points the car at interstellar war and stomps on the gas.

But it’s not just god, guts, guns, and glory. Julian takes the time to flesh out the characters and put them in positions that help justify their actions. Old enemies will become allies, at least for the time being. This is the gritty, nasty kind of sci-fi I love to read.

Civil war rages!

Between those that want peace with the rest of the galaxy, and those that want to conquer all they can see. As humanity tears itself apart, the Symmetry awaken – an ancient force that knows nothing but obliteration.

The question is… who woke them up and why? Timberwolf Velez has to figure that out and bring the fight to the most dangerous enemy the human race has ever known.

Action, twists, turns and great characters will keep you turning pages. Book two in the acclaimed Timberwolf series.

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Book Review – Timberwolf by Tom Julian

One of the cool things about being an author is you get to know other authors.  Sometimes, if you’re really nice to those other authors, they let you read things that haven’t been released yet.  This is the case with Tom Julian’s Timberwolf.  If all goes as planned and my evil schemes come to fruition I’ll be able to say I had the first blog review of the first book of someone who’s probably going to become a big name in Sci-Fi in coming years.

Excuse me whilst I twirl my mustache evilly.

Soon the Rebellion will be crushed... What? Wrong character and wrong story? Sorry.

Soon the Rebellion will be crushed… What? Wrong character and wrong story? Sorry.

The Timberwolf in the title refers to the main character of the book, a straight-forward guy named Timberwolf Velez.  He’s a fighter, a straight-shooter, and a guy with a big damned spider stuck in his head.  It’s hard to not like Timberwolf, or at the very least respect him.

In the future, as humanity finally got off its collective butt and started out for the stars, we discovered that we were not the only sentient life in the galaxy.  We took our tools, our petty worries, our warlike nature, and – perhaps worst of all – our religious beliefs out among the stars with us.  When we encountered alien life we found it was incompatible with our religious views.  How can God have created us in his image and also created giant mind-bending spiders in his image?  Someone, it would seem, is lying and those guys over there look pretty freaky so they must be the ones that need to go.

See! Bongos! Heretics!

See! Bongos! Heretics!

Religious dogma being what it is, we exterminated (or attempted to exterminate) every bit of sentient life we came across on the grounds that God meant for that happen.  This is the backdrop to Timberwolf.  The story takes place after humanity has mopped the floor with almost everyone except the Arnok (the aforementioned spiders).  True to the best science fiction stories, Timberwolf has a human heart; it’s not about the combat suits or space ships, it’s about the people and their motivations for doing what they do.  Like all good sci-fi, the bad guys trend more toward morally ambiguous than flat-out evil and the good guys are only slightly less morally ambiguous.  This gives us a well-rounded cast of characters that you can actually relate to.  Even the giant spider is relatable (for those of you not terrified by the thought of giant mind-controlling spiders).

The downside to all that war is there are people out there who want to continue it and will do anything in their power to finally get rid of the mote in God’s eye (the giant spiders).  There are groups who only want money and power, a group who will stop at nothing to prevent another war, and our good friend Timberwolf Velez, who just wants the spider out of his head.

spiderfly

Don’t mind me, I’m just trying to overcome my fear of spiders.

There are some seriously big themes covered in this novel, and they’re covered well.  Religion takes a couple shots on the nose, as do regular human greed, and our tendency to attempt to justify our horrible actions through flimsy excuses.  There is one serious shot across the bow of religious dogmatism that comes toward the end of the novel as the antagonist (who himself is actually relatable, too) is watching the events he conspired to create unfold in ways he didn’t anticipate, but you’ll just have to read the novel to see what I’m talking about.  It’s a moment that is uplifting and soul crushing all at the same time, a perfect single line.

Timberwolf will be released August 20, 2015.  Be sure to get a copy.

“Humanity has expanded beyond the borders of Earth into the far reaches of space. Human ingenuity has also expanded—as well as its theology.
On one side of an interplanetary war: a new religious order, dedicated to the expansion of human enlightenment. On another side, loosely connected to the order but hardly on the same page: the military, dedicated to the expansion of human influence.
And then there are the aliens. Worlds beyond understanding. Planets beyond comprehension. Forces which represent threats that cannot be calculated, and so must be eliminated.
Timberwolf is a soldier with too many voices in his head. Gray is a bishop with grander ambitions than his church. Highland is a planet run entirely by artificial intelligence—all of these factors point to the same conclusion: God has a story for everyone—or so the scripture of the day says.
This story is just beginning.”

timberwolf

Get it here (on or after August 20, 2015)

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