Book - Zero World

Zero World

Steve Taylor-Bryant takes on Zero World by Jason M. Hough from our friends at Titan Books and disappears...

Jason M. Hough is an award winning author who came to prominence with his Dire Earth Cycle books, and there is a prequel novella for those fans included at the back of Zero World as a bonus. Whilst he deserved all the plaudits then, I truly believe Zero World is his best novel and is brave in its premise which combines so many genres without once losing the reader, a rare skill in literature.

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.

Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.

Zero World is science fiction written really well. Zero World is dystopian. Zero World verges on steampunk. Zero World is a 1960's Cold War spy novel just not set in the 1960's, or Earth for that matter. Zero World is an action adventure. Zero World uses enhanced human technology like a comic book. Zero World is an examination of politics and cultures.

When you read that, you can grasp how many genres and elements Hough has fitted into 500 pages but he has done it in a way that works incredibly well and, whilst lots of the separate incidents of each influence are familiar, when they are put together they are uniquely brilliant. Thanks to the implant in Caswell, the assassin, the action kicks off almost immediately and honestly doesn't slow down once. Throughout the entirety of Zero World, Caswell has to deal with his conscience and morality issues, despite the super-spy violence within him and his unwavering ability to stick to his task. Melni, a native of the Zero World and an agent herself, struggles to understand Caswell's differences and Caswell hers at the same time as the political layout of the world and the destruction that humans caused their own planet, which added a real depth to the characters and lifted Zero World above any other book from the genres it mixed. Hough's world building was top notch and the small differences between the planets, whilst fascinating, were nothing compared to the different landscapes of the North and South both physically and technological.

Jason M. Hough has written a modern masterpiece that blends obvious inspirations with genius levels of originality on every page.

Image - Titan Books.