Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FireDance by Steven Barnes

Having recently finished reading Firedance by Steven Barnes, I'm unsure of exactly what to say about it. When you can barely remember having read it after only a week or so, it does seem to indicate that this was not one of the all-time great novels.

Firedance continues the story begun in Streetlethal and continued in Gorgon Child of Aubry Knight, a martial artist turned political leader in a near-future US. As the book opens, we experience the assassination of one of Aubry's oldest friends, Mira. Aubry decides that vengeance is his, and sets off to kill the man behind the killing, Pan-African leader Phillipe Swarna.

Aubry is trained, inserted into Pan Africa, and put in position to kill Swarna by an elite squad of US government funded counterterrorists. Unbeknownst to him: a) He's been set up to take the fall for the killing. b) His wife and daughter (one of the genetically altered killer Gorgons) are also gunning for Swarna, and present to back Aubry up in his attempt.

The team of killers that Swarna has put on Aubry's trail are also Aubry's clones (and something more that would spoil the ending if I told you), and so he faces opponents who are genetically as fast and tough as he is and who have been trained by a renegade half-breed Yakuza warrior.

In the course of his quest, he discovers a number of things about his murky past, and finally confronts the secret of his childhood. Barnes brings in a lot of eastern mysticism throughout the book, the prime conflict in this story is actually internal - Aubry must reconcile the way of the warrior with the way of peace, the man with the child, his male aspect with his female, yin and yang, etc. The whole thing seems to be somewhat of a lead in for a plug at the end of the novel for Barnes' martial arts? group RoninArts.

Many authors have used their novels to promote their personal beliefs and/or causes, so there's nothing wrong with that, but I was expecting an action packed novel instead of a philosophical treatise, so I was a bit disappointed. Other than that, the novel was well-written, coherent, and had some interesting plot twists, so if you've been keeping up with Aubry Knight's career, you'll probably enjoy it.

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