April 10, 2016

A Song for No Man's Land by Andy Remic

“I was going to write down my experiences during the assault, but what’s the point now? It’s all been written before, so many glorified accounts, soldiers, warriors, heroes. No matter how grim a picture I paint, there will always be those who have bright excited eyes, who think War is romantic, exciting, a beast to be tamed.”  -Andy Remic, A Song for No Man's Land

Blurb: He signed up to fight with visions of honour and glory, of fighting for king and country, of making his family proud at long last.
But on a battlefield during the Great War, Robert Jones is shot, and wonders how it all went so very wrong, and how things could possibly get any worse.
He'll soon find out. When the attacking enemy starts to shapeshift into a nightmarish demonic force, Jones finds himself fighting an impossible war against an enemy that shouldn't exist.

Format: A Song for No Man's Land is the first in a trilogy. I am reviewing the Kindle version of the novella which was 208 pages in length. The novella was originally published in February 2016 by Tor. The tale is told in limited 3rd person POV between a couple characters and also has some 1st person diary entries that are interspersed throughout. 

Setting: The novel is set in 20th century Europe during the Great War (WWI). The novel takes place both in the United Kingdom itself as well as the Battle of the Somme in France. The author succeeds in making the WWI setting feel both authentic and gritty as the tale takes place with a soldier on the front lines. Andy Remic does a good job with reminding readers with the setting that war is not as romantic as it is made out to be. 

Characters: There are three primary characters throughout this novella. The main character is Robert Jones, a drunkard and gambler that is rescued from debtors by Charlie Bainbridge. Bainbridge gets Jones to enlist in the Great War and together they forge a brotherly friendship. Later in the story they are joined by George Webb, a childhood friend to Jones who also begins to share POV time. 

Plot: After being rescued from debtors and enlisting with Bainbridge, Jones learns firsthand the horrors of war. In the battle of Somme, the casualties are great and Jones himself gets wounded. Being plagued by nightmares and memories of his childhood, Jones begins to see that not all of his enemies are human. Nightmarish demons hunt him and things that shouldn't be possible begin to alter the way Jones and his friends will see reality. The main task though, is for him and his friends to survive the horrible war.

My Thoughts: I've never read a WWI fantasy novel before. This novella doesn't seek to be overtly fantasy at first, and throughout the elements that are introduced are blended well within the realm of what we would consider normal. Dreams and reality mix a little at times and it isn't always immediately apparent if the main character Jones is dreaming, which was actually an interesting twist in the style. The author tried hard, and succeeds, at creating an authentic feeling WWI setting with characters whose brotherhood created a solid attachment with me. As the nightmarish creatures and background story was introduced, I really enjoyed the way the author chose to make the creatures mysterious and there's never really a point in the novella when someone sits down with the main POV and explains it all. This was left open and as there are more entries in this trilogy, I am eager to see what else Jones will have to face and what exactly these nightmarish creatures are. I also enjoyed the author's choice of creating 1st person POV diary entries with Jones to better dive into his thoughts and feelings. This was a great novella and I definitely would recommend it to every kind of fantasy fan.       

About the Author: Andy Remic lives in Lincoln, UK, although his heart and viking soul belong to the Scottish mountains. Married with two children, Andy has a variety of esoteric and sometimes contrasting loves, including sword fighting, climbing, mountain biking, kick-boxing, Ducati motorcycles and retro-gaming. He recently wrote the computer version of his novel Biohell for the 48K Spectrum, in which many people are still stuck. He writes in both SF and fantasy fields, and is sometimes accused of literature. Current novels include: Spiral, Quake, Warhead, War Machine, Biohell, Hardcore and the upcoming Cloneworld, Theme Planet and TOX for Solaris Books, and the Kell’s Legend trilogy, Kell’s Legend, Soul Stealers and Vampire Warlords for Angry Robot Books.

Author Website: Andy Remic's Website

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