Dark Pilgrim Rising by Ralph Buttner (R Peter Ubtrent) is a whole universe within a book. It’s the first in the Dark Pilgrim series, so there is of necessity a lot of scene-setting since this promises to be an epic sci-fi series. It’s a complex rather than complicated novel with many subplots and layers, and calls for concentration. It’s a story of survival. Ailanthus and Tethys, human friends currently on a savage penal colony, are bent on surviving in a place where few last more than five years. The Imperium, the presiding body, is also trying to survive, now that its Emperor has been assassinated. It faces uprisings from the Church of the Blessed Prophets and also from the Noble Houses, which had all previously been powerful rulers. To complicate matters further, an ancient enemy returns to the fray.

Any book that opens with the sentence ‘The existence of earth is a myth’ is one that needs reading! It quickly becomes engrossing. This is a dystopian novel of corruption, brutality and despair, but ultimate hope. The cast of alien species, including the Dwas-Mehstiv, Kroor, Druzin, Drek and H’chalks, is an intricately created and plausible one. Through their unique eyes we are given a satirical look at the human race with its faults and foolishness. But good qualities shine at times in Ailanthus and his fellow convicts. Occasionally the characters’ names are a little confusing in that are many similar ones. There are also sadly more typos than you’d hope to see but this book is nonetheless an impressive achievement and one that is rewarding and fascinating to read.

The author has a website at http://ubtrentbooks.com

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