Well, you guys selected Chris Wooding's Retribution Falls in a recent poll, so the novel was moved to the top of the pile. And I must concede that after reading the excerpt I posted a while back, I was curious to read this one.
All in all, this entertaining book should be considered scifi light. Though it's a world away from works by authors such as Dan Simmons, Ian McDonald, and Peter Watts, Retribution Falls is an action-packed and fun-filled scifi romp reminiscent of Firely. Even though it contains a number of fantasy elements, the movie Serenity and the Firefly TV series obviously were an inspiration for this book. It's definitely a fun read from cover to cover!
Darian Frey is the incompetent and down-on-his-luck captain of the Ketty Jay. With his ragtag crew, Frey accepts what appears to be the opportunity of a lifetime. The simply hijacking of a cargo freighter will earn him a fortune. Although it sounds too good to be true, Frey goes against common sense and takes on the job. But when the supposedly easy robbery goes awry and the freighter explodes, killing everyone on board, Frey becomes public enemy number one. Soon, the crew of the Ketty Jay find themselves running from the Coalition Navy, hired bounty hunters, and the Archduke's elite troops, the Century Knights. Frey is aware that the ship was rigged to blow up and he's been framed to take the fall. As he attempts to keep his head on his shoulders and prove his innocence, Frey will uncover a conspiracy that goes beyond anything he ever thought possible.
Retribution Falls is a fast-paced read from start to finish. There is never a dull moment, which keeps you turning those pages. The downside of such a quick rhythm is that Chris Wooding seldom gets the opportunity to elaborate much on many of the novel's concepts and history. At times, I found that all the bantering and the action scenes got in the way of the storytelling to a certain extent. It would have been nice to learn more about the recent wars, the Daemonists, the Awakeners, the Century Knights, etc.
As far as characterization goes, Darian Frey and his team are without a doubt a motley crew. À la Firefly, there are plenty of one-liners flying around as they exchange banter and obscenities. Granted, this is likely the funniest aspect of Retribution Falls, but I felt that it was overdone on a number of occasions, especially in the back-and-forth between Frey and Crake. What I really loved about the protagonists was the fact that they all had their personal back story, which made each and everyone of them a three-dimensional character. Though Darian Frey more or less takes center stage, secondary characters like Grayther Crake, Jez, and Trinicia Dracken leave an indelible mark on the many storylines of the novel.
In the end, if you are looking for a fun, page-turning scifi read, then Retribution Falls is for you. If Joe Abercrombie ever wrote a science fiction book, this is the sort of thing he'd come up with.
The final verdict: 7.5/10