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The Black Light Express: A Fun Campy Scifi Tale Worth Reading

The Black Light Express by Philip Reeve

A couple years ago I read a book called Mortal Engines and it was a great inventive Sci-fi tale. Then when I found out it had many sequels. When I decided to check out the second book I found it retconned so much of the first book and number of bizarre nonsensical story choices were made that it really was not all that enjoyable. But because I liked the first books much I decided to read another series from this author. I read a book called Railhead and really liked it and now I decided to read the sequel. I was a bit worried the same thing may happen with this series as with Mortal Engines but I gave it a try anyways. Here is my review of The Black Light Express by Philip Reeve.

So what is it about? First of all, this series take place in a world where the human race has stretched itself across a good chunk of the galaxy by use of a teleportation technology called K gates and their train system. In the prior book, the lead Zen Starling and his android girlfriend, Nova, must travel to a forbidden K gate to a series of alien inhabited worlds as he is on the run form the law. Meanwhile Threnoby the princess of the human galaxy has been elected Empress.

The story follows Zen and Nova as explore the new worlds and look for secrets behind the origins of the K-Gates. It also follows Threnoby as her palace comes under attack by a rival royal family. When they lose the war, she goes on the run and finds her way to the forbidden K-Gates for safety. She joins Zen on his quest. To get back home and reclaim the crown though, they must fight aliens, save Nova from a kidnapping, discover the truth about the K gate technology and must confront one of the digital beings that humans worship about their lies.

So the good and bad? Let’s start with the good. First, my worries about if this sequel will make sense in context with the first novel did not come true. It’s a tale that properly continues and builds on the event of the first novel. Also with that it continued the story in an exciting way. To see these aliens’ worlds was great. The exploration of Zen’s and Nova’s relationship was fantastic Despite how much Nova feels and cares for others like a human, it becomes increasingly clear that no matter how much she tries she is not human. The action is great. The lore of this world is phenomenal. It was a great popcorn scifi tale

The bad? This book is lacking on detail. The first one did too. But in this book when Zen goes to alien worlds, and met new species in their cultures, as a reader, I struggled to picture what much of it look like. It was hard to picture what was going on in action scenes as well. Then the tone of this book was strange. The first book explored some dark themes. Zen is forced into causing an act of terrorism against Threnoby’s family killing people and it explored the extreme guilt and consequences of what he did. This book starts off just as dark at first with a murder of a prominent character, but then proceeds to be light and fluffy young adult popcorn fun tone. Even when Zen and Threnoby must meet up again there’s no bad feelings between them. It’s all forgotten. It was like her family never died or that Zen no longer feels any guilt. The heaviness of the storytelling does vanish causing a strange shift in tone. Also this book is three hundred pages long and it shoves so many plot lines and alien worlds in that span at a breakneck pace. I feel it would be less overstuffed if it slowed down and took its time with things.

Overall, this is a fun popcorn scifi tale. It’s a great imaginative ride. Sure it has flaws. It needs more detail and it’s a fluffier campy read than the first book. But it’s a still totally worth the read. It’s not going to blow you away, but it’s some great scifi fun.

4 smoothies out of Five

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Overall Rating: A Fun Campy Scifi Tale Worth Reading.


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