Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
“Infernum” by Jayson Adams is an imaginative science-fiction novel that blends aspects of multiple sci-fi sub-genres including military science fiction, space operas, and space exploration/colonization. Let's just put it this way: if you love Star Trek or Babylon 5, you'll probably find something to love about this novel. We also wanted to add that this was a little treat for us because we haven't really gotten a space exploration novel like this in a while, probably since “Water Witch” by Kelly Brewer back in winter.
Let's preface the next part of the review by saying that all of us had a different interpretation of what actually happened in this book, and we're all probably right in some ways and wrong in others. This is a pretty thick and dense book. From what we gather, there are these space marines aboard a spaceship called the Avenger that was sent on a mission to a Sagittarius A star system (often just called “Sag A”), drawing them to a special red planet—the titular “Infernum.”
There were two things that made this one of our highest-rated science-fiction novels ever: the world-building and the characters. Both of these things come to life in a sort of “Lord of the Flies in Space” fashion. As in “Lord of the Flies,” the characters find themselves in a foreign land, eventually presuming that there's an enemy out to get them: the robotic or cybernetic “aughts,” beings who take up an almost Borg-like role in the story. However, also like “Lord of the Flies,” the real enemy really seems to come from within—from among them.
The author explores the theme of “the enemy among us” in various ways. One of those ways involves one of the most compelling and simultaneously annoying characters in the whole book: Chief Engineer Lynch. Lynch is basically Star Scream from Transformers. He's this obnoxious, self-centered, power-hungry Machiavellian character with a desire to start a mutiny, take over the ship, and send it back home to Earth. Lynch isn't concerned about leaving people behind. He's not concerned about who might be hurt or even killed by him and his cronies. Lynch loves Lynch, and he's in it for himself. And the reader wants nothing better than to punch him in the face and for him to get his comeuppance. He'd probably be played by Guy Pearce if this were a movie.
Geez, maybe this could be considered “Richard III in Space” as standing in Lynch's way of taking over the bridge are Captain Holbrook and Commander Stephens, two of our noble, white knight boy scout protagonists in the book. But c'mon, there's really only one hero in this story who we were behind 100%, and she's smoking hot! Ensign Jimenez is the ridiculously, insanely hot, lowest-ranking, youngest and newest officer on the Avenger. She comes complete with a big behind, an hour-glassed shape, and brains of her own. There's just something about Jimenez. Maybe it's the fact that every guy in the novel just finds Jimenez irresistible. Maybe it's the fact that she's repeatedly called the “young ensign” as if she were barely legal or something. Maybe it's the way her body-language is described as she's always switching her weight between legs, and “her hips” are emphasized at least three times. Or maybe it's just passages like this:
“She lifted again, pinning her chin to her chest and holding long enough to survey her body: exposed breasts, rising and falling belly, bare thighs, tops of feet. They had stripped away her EN-suit, leaving her naked. She angled herself onto the backs of her forearms and slowly pushed to sit... She brought her legs around and planted her feet on the deck. The young ensign hunched forward, steadying herself with hands on knees and letting her head dangle. Her long dark hair, normally pinned, shrouded her chest. Someone was watching.”
And it was at that point that we felt dirty and needed to check over our shoulders to see if anyone was watching our Kindle tablets from behind.
But it's not just the fact that Jimenez is hot and young, she's also probably the character who is the most vulnerable and has the most room to grow. She's the neophyte in this whole situation just like the reader is. So, while it could be argued that characters like Holbrook and Stephens are more major characters, Jimenez is the upstart protagonist we get behind.
There's also a pretty interesting gray character with a lot of intrigue named Tentek, an aught, who seems torn between the ways of humans and the ways of the aught.
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