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Exodus (SF) - Alex Lamb ***

Exodus is full throttle, rip-roaring space opera, with a side helping of virtual reality and biotech. It strongly brings to mind two classics of the genre. The first is Star Trek's Borg episodes. As is the case with the Borg, the humans here face up to the conquering Photurians - who seek to assimilate whole species into their strange mix of hive mind and individuality. The tech behind the invaders may be at the biological cellular level rather than cyborg, but the effect is equally terrifying. I can't help but feel that this was a conscious influence, given the Borg's catchphrase, as at one point one of Alex Lamb's characters says:  'I mean resistance is worth it. The opposite of futile.'

Then there is E. E. 'Doc' Smith's Lensman series. Though obscure now, in its time, the Lensman series was one of the founding sagas of space opera. Thankfully, Lamb writes a lot better than Smith does - frankly, his style was distinctly clunky -  but if you know the classics, it's hard not to see similarities in the vast flotillas of spaceships, devastating futuristic weapons and some of the main characters becoming superhuman thanks to highly advanced alien technology.

Although Exodus, without doubt, fits into the space opera genre, I ought to stress that this is no simplistic shoot-ups in space storyline. Like the second version of the TV show Battlestar Galactica, this book manages to transcend its roots - here with a complex mix of storylines and some remarkable imagination. This is particularly true in the 'Willworld' segments. Lamb really stretches the possibilities of combining virtual reality and biological modification and manages a complex scenario without the reader ever becoming lost in it.

This is a book I enjoyed reading... but didn't really make me want to go back for more. There are a few issues I had with it that were probably more about what I like to read than the book itself. Each chapter is split into around five different points of view, which I've never been fond of in a novel - and for me, at around 600 pages, it's too long - it could have been trimmed 100 pages at least without losing anything, tightening the whole thing up. For various reasons I found it difficult to empathise with many of the characters. But if you like a complex space opera with lots of hi-tech imaginings and a tangled, multi-point-of-view plot, this could well be a delight.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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