Angry Ghosts

Reviewer: Susan Shepherd

Author: F. Allen Farnham

Published: 2009

Reviewed: 2011-06-14

Publisher: Cadre One Publishing

"Angry Ghosts" is set in the distant future, many generations after
mankind has begun to travel between the stars, and a few hundred years
after aliens came to Earth and wiped out the humans there. The
surviving colonies, research stations and ships found themselves
widely scattered and very much alone. Unable to contact one another
due to fears that the aliens would intercept transmissions and hunt
them down, most of these enclaves did what they could to become
invisible. They hunkered down, tried to make do with the resources
immediately available to them, and did what they could to not perish.
It isn't known how many of these enclaves survived to the "present
day" of the story.

The novel follows a trio of soldiers, Thompson, Maiella, and Argo,
from one such enclave. They are one of many teams whose job is to
capture alien ships to get at the supplies and equipment inside,
killing the alien crew and all passengers in the process. Naturally,
this is a precarious situation---even one surviving alien could send a
signal of some kind and doom the human settlement---so the trio has to
be ready for anything and always prepared for sudden violence.

From this premise, Farnham weaves an interesting story with plotlines
whose focus ranges from the characters' personal issues to the fate of
humankind. Since "Angry Ghosts" is the first book in a planned
series, many of these plot-lines remain unresolved, but there is
enough of a resolution that I at least felt satisfied with how the
book ended.

Unfortunately, the worldbuilding feels incomplete at best and
inconsistent at worst. It is as though the author shifts the
settlement's ethical system around to whatever is most convenient to
the plot at that point in time. As a result, while the book is still
enjoyable, several scenes which are meant to be full of tension come
off as faintly annoying instead.

As a side note, the book itself is very different from the back-cover
blurb, which makes it sound as though the plot focuses on the aliens
who attacked Earth. Since the book focuses strictly on human
characters after Chapter Two or so, I found this rather odd. I'm
guessing that later books will spend more time in the aliens' heads,
but it is hard to know. Maybe the blurb writer was working from the
first three chapters and a page-long summary of the rest; in any case,
the blurb has practically nothing to do with the book's main plot.

Overall, Angry Ghosts is readable. It explored some aspects of human
culture that I hadn't seen before, and the dramatic buildup at the end
was nice. But the world within the story was sufficiently
inconsistent that I found myself arguing with the plot on several
occasions. As a result, while I don't regret the time I invested in
reading Angry Ghosts, I will not be seeking out its sequels.