REVIEW: The Liberty Gun by Martin Sketchley
REVIEW SUMMARY: Redeems the series with an excellent, action-packed finish.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Delgado and Ash join forces with a rebel Seriatt group to overthrow the alien Sinz that are using the planet as a launch point for war with Earth.
PROS: Relentless, engrossing action sequences; likable characters; page-turning quality; vivid imagery.
CONS: Some moments broke suspension of disbelief.
BOTTOM LINE: 100% adventure.
The Liberty Gun is the third and final book in the Structure series, following The Affinity Trap and The Destiny Mask. I was a bit leery about the third installment because of a not-so-great reading experience with the second book. Fortunately the series returns to what made it so enjoyable: likable characters and relentless action.
In The Liberty Gun, ex-military intelligence officer Alexander Delgado and his rebel partner Ashala have been transplanted to a future Seriatt, which is now occupied by the tri-race aliens known as the Sinz. Delgado and Ash join with a band of Seriatt rebels who want to liberate their planet, but Delgado’s main interest is in finding the time gate that brought him there so he can alter the past to prevent the undesirable fate of his son, Cascari. The Sinz have surrounded Seriatt with a nearly impenetrable barrier while they wait for the reinforcements needed to help conquer Earth. But that barrier doesn’t stop Earth tyrant William Myson from sending to Seriatt a pair of mercenaries (the human Structure operative Saskov and the Seriatt known as Distinguished Mourst Warrior Brandouen) armed with advanced technology to achieve two goals: first, to kill the huge Sinz alien that powers the planetary shield, and second, to retrieve the time gate so Myson can become even more powerful.
Looking back at the previous books in the Structure series, it strikes me that it succeeds best when protagonist Delgado is a more likable fellow (as in book 1 – The Affinity Trap) than when he plays the antihero role (as in book 2 – The Destiny Mask). It’s hard to get into an action story when you have no emotional investment in the main character. The series gets back on track with The Liberty Gun where Delgado once again displays admirable characteristics. He’s the likable hero again and that makes his adventures all the more enjoyable. Although Ash is still the stock Tough Girl character, this time out there is an interesting (and sometimes graphic) love triangle between her, Delgado and the androgynous Seriatt rebel named Cowell. Cowell is another good character and provides a view into the alien Seriatt culture. Saskov was another interesting character in that it was unclear whether he was a good gut or another stooge for Myson. His loyalty to Structure and Brandouen’s racial pride were an interesting contrast, thus making them an interesting team. Their contentious scenes were fun even though they rarely amounted to much more than that.
What about plot, you ask? Simply put: this is action-packed sf without the fluff. The story pacing is unapologetically swift and the narrative pushes the reader from one thrilling sequence to the next. There is no slow, novel-long buildup of action. It’s 100% adrenaline, right from Delgado’s and Ash’s arrival onto the future Seriatt. Since the shape-shifting Sinz assume three forms (humanoid, amphibious and avian) there is some variety by changing the venue of action scenes: Delgado and Co. battle the Sinz on land, underwater and – best of all – in the air. Those copter battle scenes were well done.
Maybe it’s because there was little room for the reader to catch his breath that the story became highly engrossing. However, like the previous books, The Liberty Gun was subject to moments that are just a wee bit unbelievable. The good news is that there are much fewer of these moments in this final installment and they are much less severe. In one such moment, for example, Delgado fortuitously assumes control of the advanced, nobic-guided Needle ship simply because of a third-party wrestling match fought between Saskov and the orbiting Sinz ships. Was this really a necessary feather in our hero’s cap, especially when his subsequent landing was less than perfect? Such events seemed like a misguided attempt to give our stalwart hero another notch on his Macho Belt. They weren’t really needed since Sketchley does an excellent job exceeding your average adventure quotient while simultaneously creating vivid imagery in his writing. I could easily imagine this on the big screen.
The final action sequence, which involved a subterranean alien brain-like creature and a horde of giant scorpions, was fantastic. Another minor moment of disbelief here, though: if you were tasked with guarding a planetary shield, would you assign half a dozen giant scorpions? Sure, they’re kick-ass giant scorpions…but wouldn’t you be afraid that would show up on your year-end performance review? Wisely, the finale was much longer than any of the other numerous action sequences and it carried a correspondingly more intense level of tension-filled reading. Although the ending was very satisfying I must admit I secretly wished for a slightly different turnout, one that differently addressed the supposed immutability of time. No matter, getting there has a helluva ride.
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