Andromeda’s Choice by William C. Dietz
Published by Titan Books, July 4, 2014. Paperback of 321 pages at £ 7.99.
The cover: The cover image is copyrighted by Shutterstock and the design concept is by Andrew Smith. A model has been chosen to represent Andromeda. She’s got the short, chopped hair but isn’t sporting the hideous scar that’s supposed to go across the lead’s face. However, I do like the emotion on her face and her battlesuit and that gun look great. I like how there are alien buildings in the murky background, forcing readers to come to conclusions without all the facts, much as the hero must do. The faded colors also make this image seem alien. Overall grade: A-
The premise: From the back cover, “In the wake of a bloody coup that claimed the lives of her entire family, Cat Carletto sought refuge in the violent embrace of the Legion of the Damned–the most fearsome fighting force in the Empire–and was reborn as Andromeda McKee. After less than a year in the Legion, battle-scarred Andromeda is summoned to Earth to receive the Imperial Order of Merit from the empress herself. When she learns of a resistance group determined to overthrow Ophelia, she must choose between her conscience and her desire for revenge.” I really enjoyed the first book in this series and this follow up look like it will deliver more of what I want. I can’t wait to read this! Overall grade: A
The characters: The lead character is the fantastic Andromeda McKee. She is continually trying to survive every military engagement and those who seek to discover her true identity and turn her over to her evil aunt, Empress Ophelia. In this novel McKee begins to realize that she is getting further away from whom she used to be, as killing people becomes a regular solution to difficulties. She realizes doing this is wrong, but it is the easiest solution to her problems. There is an early encounter with a fleeting character from the first book that has her reliving her past life, though readers should know that conflict builds tension and character. MeKee is again joined with that Wildman of a soldier, Desmond Larkin, who reminds me of a younger Gary Busey, constantly living life on the edge, making every possible wrong decision, yet surviving. The new alien antagonists in his book are the feline Naa from the planet Algernon. They bring to mind the Na’vi, but as the book went on I enjoyed them so much more than those of the Cameron feature. Their names were great and several parts of the book are told from their point of view. I enjoyed their leader, who executes a master stroke with a killer line. There are also three other major antagonists, but I won’t spoil who they are and what they’re up to as it comprises all the tension outside of the many skirmishes and battles in the book. The male human was the perfect individual for readers to hate. Every character was believable and McKee continues to grow. Overall grade: A+
The settings: The two primary settings of the novel are Earth and Algernon. McKee and Larkin are sent to Earth to receive medals for their work in the previous novel. The ship that takes them to Earth is of the swanky cruise ship variety which has all that money can buy. Earth’s action is divided into the surface, which holds all what one would suspect in the future, though controlled by a despot, and the Deeps, the underworld that the Empress cannot completely destroy. This underground society is very interesting and I was more than willing to have Dietz spend a lot of time there, but instead the action goes to rural Algernon, full of forests, plains, swamps, and mountains. I was prepared to not be thrilled by this “plain” planet and was happily surprised with the description of its features. It was equally beautiful and deadly. Overall grade: A+
The action: There is a lot of action in this book. I don’t see how you couldn’t be entertained by all the chaos that occurs in one-on-one battles, squad versus squad skirmishes, and full on army versus army action. I know that there are more books planned featuring Andromeda but I was fearful of every engagement she and her legionnaires encountered. Some live, many die, but no one gets off free. All must fight. There is a sequence on the ship going to Earth that will demand instant respect of Andromeda’s abilities. Due to the novel being told from several points of view, readers can see the fighting from many different perspectives and that makes for fantastic reading. I’ve never been a fan of the military genre, let alone the science fiction military outings, but the more I read of the exploits of the Legion of the Damned the more I’m becoming a fan. Overall grade: A+
The conclusion: There is an epically doomed confrontation at the end of the book that would be a budget breaker if it were turned into a Hollywood film. It is amazing. There is also a hint of further trouble from a certain individual in future novels and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Overall grade: A+
The final line: Andromeda McKee is quickly becoming the greatest heroine of science fiction. I was spellbound by the action and grew fearful at those investigating her. I loved this book and eagerly await the next. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.