The story you’ll find in James Lovegrove’s WORLD OF FIRE is a familiar one. A special agent has been recruited to find out what’s gone wrong on a planet with its own rules, political system, and no small amount of problems from its magma-rock mining infrastructure. Oh yeah, and there’s a race of AIs called the Polis+, to shake things up.
Our hero, Dev Harmer, is reluctant. He cracks wise. He is war-torn and gruff, but highly competent. He’s every action hero you might have seen, with a good amount of baggage and devotion to his mission. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, without going into too many details, WORLD OF FIRE’s plot turns and general ideas are serviceable. There is a consistent theme, very strong world-building, and I knew I was reading a practiced author.
That said, the novel had one drawback that popped up on nearly every page: overwriting.
“‘Let her go.’
This was Stegman, who had his mosquito [dart gun] leveled with Dev’s neck, just inches away. Point-blank range. He couldn’t miss.”
This quote is not to harp on the writing. It’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it. But the reader knows point-blank range means the man cannot miss, and they know that inches away means point-blank range. It’s a minor thing, but it popped up with confusing frequency. In large doses, it felt like I was being told what was relevant and why–even after I’d figured it out. Alongside fascinating worldbuilding, we have a standard mystery plot, and the procedure of it is explained to an unnecessary degree. The result is a 464-page book that feels like 464 pages, because the story harms itself with overwriting.
I wasn’t able to overlook these errors due to their quantity, but Lovegrove nails the tone of this novel. I was consistently impressed with the world Dev Harmer was on: the technology, the atmosphere, all of it was vivid and real. One look at the book’s cover made me want to read it, and the writing is tonally consistent with that initial thrill.
Which is why this isn’t a bad book. It’s readable, with a single error that occurs frequently. If you like thrillers, and rocky syntax doesn’t bother you, you will really dig this book. It has that Star Wars feel of a cool planet, comfortable characters, and a nice ride. I just wish Lovegrove would have let me enjoy it without over-explaining.
Jared W. Cooper is a Jersey-born writer, gamer, and mostly-coherent genre geek. Between slush reading, writing groups, and editing, he consumes short stories like most people breathe. His reviews, essays, and the odd short fiction piece can be found, sporadically, at Jaredwcooper.org