The Forever Watch by David Ramirez – Advance Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, writes an Advance Review of one of the best science fiction debuts of the year, David Ramirez’s fantastic The Forever Watch, out May 1 in the UK from Hodder and Stoughton and in the USA from April 22 through Thomas Dunne Books.
“An excellent novel – David Ramirez establishes himself as a fantastic author who’s certainly one to watch with a complex, entertaining and original science fiction novel that comes highly recommended – you won’t want to miss this.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer…
As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered “mission critical.” She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty, the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.
When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor’s violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply “Retired,” nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.
What they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity in this thrilling page turner.
The thing that sold me on The Forever Watch was its cover. Having no knowledge about the writer or the book I requested it from NetGalley based on the eye-catching cover and when I was able to get stuck in I did, and the book did not disappoint, providing among of the most unique science fiction experiences that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far this year. It’s smart, original and compelling – and hopefully this won’t be the last that we’ll see of David Ramirez.
The Forever Watch charts the story of the spaceship Noah and its journey to find the Promised Land – Canaan. This alone was enough to remind me of my favourite TV series Battlestar Galactica – the 2003 version, where a group of survivors are fleeing the twelve colonies of Kobol in search of the mythical world known as Earth, and this book turned out to be very interesting indeed, putting the reader’s attention on the main character Hana Dempsey – a city planner who’s gifted in multiple fields, among them hacking and economics.
Given the fact that David Ramirez is an ex-scientist, you can expect that The Forever Watch is going to be well researched and far from a simple read, and you’d be right – the book involves a lot of technological elements and they’re pulled off very well, allowing for a complex read and it doesn’t just come from that front – The Forever Watch also handles complex characters and an interesting plot to boot, making it one of the strongest science fiction novels that I have read in a while, especially as it is a debut one.
Hana herself allows for a great protagonist. Her first introduction comes as a mother giving birth, as is required by law on board Noah, which is something that’s unusual to happen even in a book where a law isn’t there. However, this allowed an intriguing element to the book, and it was interesting to see how Ramirez dealt with this, and he handled it effectively in what otherwise could have been an awkward situation. As well as Hana there’s also Leonard Barrens, a police officer who drafts in Hana to help find the murderer of his mentor, and he is another good character that the writer has given us, well developed and just as interesting as Hana.
This book is one of the most original science fiction novels I’ve read in a while, there are some fascinating concepts here and they’re dealt with very well – despite the fact that this may be Ramirez’s first novel, he’s a confident and strong writer who manages to knock it out of the park – this could very well be one of the year’s best debuts by the end.
Ramirez doesn’t fall into the trap that comes with having vast amount of scientific elements in his story that will seem off putting to a reader only casually invested in the science fiction genre. However, Ramirez manages to tell a good story despite this, weaving a confident and strong narrative that doesn’t get bogged down with the details, the book turning out to be an incredibly strong read and the pace allows for some compulsive reading.
It’s amazing how much Ramirez has accomplished in his debut novel that feels like the second or third novel rather than the beginning. His book never feels overlong and doesn’t feel too short either, getting the perfect balance. In fact, there’s very little wrong with this novel, as the writer deals with powerful themes and an intriguing plot incredibly strongly.