Book Review: Valhalla by Ari Bach

Posted on Friday, July 18th, 2014 at 01:56

I just finished reading the first book in Ari “facts-i-just-made-up” Bach’s Sci-Fi trilogy.
It was pretty awesome… So I posted this as the amazon review:


Valhalla book cover

Valhalla is a sort of Black-metal cyberpunk Edda

Valhalla starts out as a slick, believable, deep sci-fi universe, then it takes a turn into a Heinlein-esque future “military”, before Norse Mythology patches in with some Cyberpunk hyper-violence, all against a backdrop of wit, pop(and rock and metal)-culture references. And then the ride really gets going.

It’s not perfect though, there are some points where character’s feel a bit flat and indistinguishable, and some of the emotions felt a little muted, although nothing so bad that I lost suspension of disbelief completely, the worst mistake may possibly be the final few scenes which would have been better opening a sequel. It feels a bit like those, read the start of the next book things, which I also hate, but in this case actually harmed the conclusion.

That said, I want to read the sequel…”

Which is all true, but here I want to expand on that a little.

There is a lot of violence in the book, but it feels like video game violence, the characters have extra lives and everything, so whilst it’s violent it never felt sickening or gory, nor is there ever really any real sense of danger, but that doesn’t really get in the way of the story, it’s just worth noting. And I’ll come back to why that is later…

The book claims to be YA, but the themes and language won’t be suitable for every Young Adult, but it’s realistic and gritty dialogue for the most part (although as a Brit with Norwegian and Irish Ancestry [amongst other things] some of the “regionalised” dialogue is clunky and sounds the wrong side of the Atlantic – although that’s mostly explained by how far in the future it’s set, it’s still a little jarring).

There’s a lot of silliness to the story, universe and especially the technology and science, which is in keeping with the humour of Ari’s blog, which can detract from the story occasionally, but I never found it unenjoyable, just don’t imagine you’re going to get hard science-fiction, there’s often just some hand-waving with gags.

Anyway I was totally into the action, which for the most part is very well written and easy to follow, but it but it does heavily emphasises the visual, there’s some sounds, but very little scent, taste or feeling described. Some of this is down to the analgesic implants and training the characters receive, but I think more of it is that Ari is simply a very visual person, and so you see what he has written, like watching a movie, or playing a video game, but considering the nature of the combat that is probably not entirely a bad thing.

Religion. There’s a lot of it in the book in one form of another, although the world is meant to be Atheistic (following all those nasty religious wars), but it turns up again and again throughout, and there’s something a little unsettling about it. Perhaps that is another artefact of the Atlantic… American religion is not the same as European, no matter which cult, sect or mythology you subscribe to. And I suppose Ari may not have realised the significance of Orange on this side of the pond, and the imagery that conjures here, but I can’t kept wishing he’d picked a different colour if that’s so… There’s also something very un-European about some character’s reactions to the Sapphic romance side-plot, that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it might be that the bible has very little to say about Lesbians, and those American Baptists seem to be equal-opportunity haters, and that may have coloured the story in an odd light.

But those really are minor niggles, I was enjoying the story, liked the reworking of Norse Myth, and was really digging the epic battle that gave me a great end of book high, that was then dashed by a cruel and little crude set-up for a sequel. Like the aftertaste on Sugar-Free Coke or getting stabbed in the head at the end of a great night, it kind of ruined perfection…

But still I do really want to read that sequel.