Another book review! I generally steer away from books spawned by another media franchise. In particular books spawned of computer games (and movies for that matter) are renowned for their poor quality. The Burning Life has these flaws, but it's not completely without merit. It also has the distinction of being the second book I read from cover to cover on iBooks for my iPad.
It's a book written based around the fictional history and characters of a computer game setting. The premise in brief is that a splinter of humanity at some point in the distant future becomes stranded in another part of the universe when their way home is essentially destroyed, forcing them to survive by the most primitive of means. The societies that survive without this umbilical to earth eventually claw their way out of the aftermath and become spacefaring people again. In more recent history a method of neurally communicating with technology is developed and compatible captains can literally be wired into their ships, combined with cloning technology these individuals become literally immortal; a super-class of humanity without many of the limitations of the mortal form.
In the game you play one of these 'pod pilots' so named because of the pods they reside in when wired into their ships. The book doesn't follow such an individual however, it follows a pirate; more accurately a civilian belonging to a pirate organisation, one of a few organisations so powerful as to be comparable to nations in their own right. A pod pilot under the authority of one of the recognised 'legitimate' nations attacks his colony, wiping out his family. The book follows his story of revenge.
It's not a bad tale. It's a little predictable and the twisting conclusion stretches plausibility a little but doesn't detract from the entertainment much. My issues with it are relatively few:
Primary among them is that there are two stories being told, one of which is actually fairly irrelevant. It is the story that gives the greater insight into the world however and contributes to stage-setting the final chapter. This could have been done in a much neater method and it feels like you're being rail-roaded through a list of the setting's cultures for the sole purpose of being familiarised with them. It's very mechanical and lacks subtlety leading to very two-dimensional caricatures of what should be interesting real-world analogues. The primary narrative is superior, has characterisation and some depth; yet sadly the finale makes a lot of that feel hollow and false due to the way it seems to discard the central character's actions. It suffers from the cultural railroading of the secondary narrative, but is far more elegantly executed and feels far less forced.
The other gripe I have is the misuse of terminology. Not that the meaning isn't clear, but that some of the game's mechanical nomenclature is inappropriately used. The best example for me is the word 'faction' in the game refers to nations, large organisations, empires and the like, each with their own contribution to a mathematical mechanic that makes the 'faction' distinction meaningful. Referring to a country as a 'faction' in human terms feels off however, and this tended to jerk me out of the narrative when it happened.
Other than this, it kept my interest and I wanted to read the conclusion. It was entertaining and I'd recommend it to any fan of the game, but probably not to anyone who is just looking for good Sci-Fi.