The events in this volume follow directly on from the previous book, Twisted Metal. Thankfully, the author has provided a synopsis up front, for those who haven't yet read the first in the Penrose Series.
Most of the action in Twisted Metal took place on the continent of Shull, whose robots have little understanding or interest in anything organic. In Blood and Iron, the action is divided between Shull and Yukawa, a more verdant continent whose robots have an appreciation for aesthetics and who cultivate trees, plants and livestock. Yukawa has an ‘oriental' feel to it and the robots there seem more sophisticated.
There are five main characters, Kavan, Spoole, Karel and Susan (protagonists from the first book) are located in Shull where events continue from Twisted Metal, playing out the drama which was left somewhat unfinished. In Blood and Iron, we are also introduced to Wa-Ka-Mo-Do - a warrior-poet. Strikingly beautiful, his skill, prowess and speed, as well as his rank, are admired and feared by most other robots. His tragic story arc begins early in the book, where he is summoned to the Silent City for a direct audience with the Emperor. Ordered to Sangrel, an outlying province, he is told to liaise with Penrose's newest arrivals - animals. Animals who have arrived from the stars and who have powerful weapons and machinery at their disposal. You guessed it - humans.
Inevitably, the humans turn out to be less interested in learning about the robots than screwing them over. Their MO is to leave each robot city stripped of its precious, life-giving (to the robots) metal, moments before committing genocide on them. Despite their comparatively fragile existence, the ‘animals' turn out to be a lot tougher, and a lot more dangerous than they appear. Wa-Ka-Mo-Do is caught in a dangerous dilemma between his duty to the Emperor and his responsibility to the people of Sangrel. His indecision ultimately leads to his downfall and to a terrible fate, much worse than death.
Once again, this book is written entirely from the robots' perspective, and perhaps this is why their plight puts the reader's sympathy well and truly in their camp. There is also the uncomfortable feeling that the behaviour of the humans is, sadly, all too typical, especially when big business is involved. Against seemingly overwhelming odds, the five protagonists eventually converge, quickly learning from their enemy. They manage to achieve a moderate victory, enough to see off the humans, at least for the time being, but the episode has brought to light something no robot has considered until now - that while they believed themselves to be free-thinking, they are all governed and limited by the way their wire was twisted at birth.
Tony Ballantyne writes about Penrose with such unstinting confidence the reader is naturally drawn into the story. The characters are all very different and each has enough depth to be believable and likeable. The story itself is moves forward at just the right pace, particularly as the situation Wa-Ka-Mo-Do faces becomes increasingly impossible. It's one of those books you look up from and find it's 2 am and you should have been asleep hours ago.
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Martine Ashe (Martine_Lillycrop)
May 25, 2011
Jul 25, 2012 08:52 PM UTC
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Appointed Commander of the Emperor's Army of Sangrel, Wa-Ka-Mo-Do of Ko tries to establish relations between the existing robot population and the humans who have recently arrived on Yukawa. On the continent of Shull, Kavan forms the Uncertain Army and is marching to Artemis City. Upon discovery that the city's generals have made an alliance with the humans, he retreats to Stark where he plans the eventual overthrow of Artemis and the humans. Meanwhile, Karel is heading South, hoping to be reunited with Susan, his wife. As he walks, he hears more of the stories of the robots, and begins to understand something about his place on the world of Penrose. But with limited resources and tensions growing between robot and human it's only a matter of time before problems arise. And it's becoming more and more apparent that the humans are a lot more powerful than the robots first expected...