Book review: Dark Feathered Hearts

Sticking with my good intentions, this is a review of a tremendous book I have just finished reading.

Dark Feathered Hearts is the fourth and final volume of The Book if the Colossus by John Collick. I have read and enjoyed the previous volumes and was more than keen to get my hands on the last installment.



It’s over! The Book of the Colossus is finished. The third volume, AntiHelix added a new dimension to the story, deepening the characters and the relationship between Max and Abby, at the same time accelerating the rhythm. This final volume not only has a multitude of threads to bring together without getting them hopelessly tangled, it adds even more. The plot is intricate and the cast of players pretty huge by the finale, but John Collick manages to weave in the loose ends without ever losing sight of the main picture.

The Abhumans make a surprising and loveable constant element, to the extent that the little furry buggers and the Brittle Hag’s amazing ship feel like home—not exactly comfortable, but familiar in their strangeness. Crysanthe is still with us—all hard edges to strike sparks off Abby—and the Machine Men. The Black Roses flutter in and out, as is to be expected given the title, and if there is a thread I would have liked to have lingered with longer, it was this one. For the previous three volumes the Black Roses have been the shadowy bad guys, epitomised by the dastardly Odilon, but enigmatic and intriguing. I was still intrigued by them at the end of the story. What exactly their game was remained an enigma, but this is not our world, and it doesn’t function like a cricket match.

The world of the Colossus is so huge it defies description. I am put in mind of a Hieronymous Bosch painting, tiny grotesque figures scuttling across a vast canvas of fiery reds and dull shadow, mountains looming in the obscurity and crawling with horrors. But the canvas of the Colossus shifts and changes as we travel through loops in time and space across the dying singularity and the prone body of God. The colours are violets and dull reds and oranges; the seas are acid and full of rusting wreckage, the debris of massive destruction and ancient wars. Its denizens are humanoid or machine, or something that lies in a weird zone between the two. Then there are the Giants, miles-tall loose cannons, there is reality and there is God’s mind, and there is the creation called Rebecca, a spot-on portrait of insufferable adolescence. Last of all, there are the Gods. If there is a single image that sticks with me, haunts me even, it is of the Gods, monstrous, fantastic, shining or hideous beings, infinitely cold and merciless, and their infinitesimally slow march through the God Door.

Perhaps it’s because I didn’t want it to end. Perhaps because I raced to finish, not wanting to put the book down, that the extraordinary denouement came too quickly for me. But that’s a fault I would only find with books that I am reluctant to admit have finally come to an end, that the last word has been read, and I have to let the characters continue their journey without me. This has been a tremendous journey, beautifully written and extraordinary in its visual scope. Read it.

If you haven’t read any of this series yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It really is extremely good.You can read my review of the first volume, Thumb, here.

John Collick’s Amazon author page has all the details.

Book review: AntiHelix by John Collick

AntiHelix is the third volume of John Collick’s science fantasy series, The Book of the Colossus. I have read and enjoyed all three books, and this latest volume is perhaps my favourite. If you haven’t started this series yet, you should. Here are the links to John’s author pages with the details.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

AntiHelix (The Book of the Colossus, #3)AntiHelix by John Guy Collick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This third volume of The Book of the Colossus is a real tour de force. John Collick’s depiction of this dark, decaying world he has created never falters. As soon as I opened this volume, I was back beneath a black sky, among red and ochre landscapes strewn with dead machinery. Some of the characters Abby and Max picked up in Ragged Claws are still with us, as well as a host of new ones.
What I particularly like about the structure of AntiHelix is the separation of story threads. Max and Abby, with their escort of the touchingly faithful Abhumans, take almost second place to the story of General Crysanthe Uella, her fall from grace and her emergence as a force to be reckoned with, even when she is obeying nobody’s orders but her own. Crysanthe is a tremendous character, complex and likeable possibly because she isn’t loveable. She’s all hard angles and rather humourless, but her qualities come out as the story progresses and all her certitudes fall apart.
There are so many good characters in this story, but I won’t mention my favourite because he starts of as so NOT a favourite character that even to mention he was my favourite will spoil the surprise.
John Collick does an astonishing job with his creations, giving them such individuality I can actually see them. One of the ways this book builds on the preceding volumes is in the colour. Onto the colours of a dying fire of the previous books, Collick adds layers of brilliance with his weird and wonderful characters who sparkle like fireworks. This is a world I have really come to believe in, and really believe it is worth saving.
Although I felt that the couple Max/Abbey plays second fiddle to the grand tragedy of the Uella family and the corrupt decadence of the Empire of the Ear, they come over as all the more human. Abby’s erratic behaviour and humours, the rows with Max, making ups and explanations, rather than soap opera, are so believable. The final scenes, that have a touch of a Feydeau farce are wonderful. I didn’t know whether to laugh or steel myself for tears.
Where Ragged Claws seems to pack an awful lot of action into the last scenes, accelerating as if time (or the book) is running out, AntiHelix is beautifully paced. The alternating story line helps to keep the tension taut, and takes the pressure off Max and Abby to perform constantly. And the tension never lets up, like a high wire act with no safety net, and where up in the shadows, something nasty is playing with a pair of wire-cutters.
I can’t recommend this series highly enough. Thumb introduces a weirdly intriguing world and concepts that are pretty extraordinary. Ragged Claws takes us into even more elaborately constructed dimensions. In AntiHelix I would say that John Collick has really got into his stride, producing a novel close to science fantasy perfection. I can’t imagine what the fourth volume will bring, but it’s sure to be brilliant.

View all my reviews