by Jeffery Thomas

If you’re coming to Jeffery Thomas’ Blue War with expectations of Turtledovian militaria, then they’ll be quickly undermined. Don’t be fooled by the title. This is post war politics and inter-relations with the former ‘enemy’ all zip locked in a pleasantly bizarre package. As such, it’s more a tale of tension than explosive action.

      The planet Sinan is one big, azure jungle. Blue foliage, blue giraffe-like creatures and an indigenous population that would have an unfair advantage at auditions for the Blue Man Group. It’s also a planet that protagonist Jeremy Skate is disturbingly familiar with – he fought there with human forces involved in a global civil war. Now an uneasy peace keeps the Jin Haa and Ha Jiin factions from each other’s throats, but everything’s back to boiling point thanks to the introduction of an uncanny plot device.

      In Thomas’ future, cities are smart cultured rather than built. Problem is, one ‘grow your own hamlet’ kit has suddenly gone renegade and now threatens to consume the entire planet. It’s a piece of epic weirdness – a massive, multiplying, deserted city – and yet the author never loses sight of the more intimate stories that populate this ghost town.

      Chief among these has to be Skate’s relationship with Thi Gonh – former enemy assassin, and his ex-Stockholm syndrome lover. She’s the real motivation behind Skate’s return to Sinan, and their perpetually compromised relationship counterpoints the more thrilling and noir aspects of the plot.

      It’s unfortunate, then, that all this captivating work gets marred by a flattening of the Sinan characters. Thi Gonh is demure yet lethal. Her husband, an aggressive wife beater. The local kids, all tousled haired, lovable urchins. At times it almost feels like a GI returning to a stereotyped Vietnam in space. The most well-defined of all the native cast is Captain Hin Yengun, and that’s predominantly because he’s the first key character we meet in the book.

      It’s not exactly enough to halt you in your tracks, but it’s an annoying quirk that colours the narrative a different shade than the moody and erotically charged strokes Thomas so obviously excels at.