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.
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.