Grubane (Lost Tales of Solace) by Karl Drinkwater #BookReview #BlogTour


Major Grubane is commander of the Aurikaa, the most feared cruiser in the UFS arsenal.
His crew is handpicked and fiercely loyal. Together, they have never failed a mission, and their reputation precedes them.
But this time he's been sent to a key planet that is caught up in political tensions at the centre of the freedom debate. What he thought was a simple diplomatic mission turns out to be the hardest choice of his career. His orders: eliminate one million inhabitants of the planet, and ensure their compliance.
Grubane has also rediscovered an ancient game called chess, and plays it against the ship AI as a form of mental training. But maybe it could be more than that as he finds himself asking questions. Can orders be reinterpreted? How many moves ahead is it possible for one man to plan? And how many players are involved in this game?

It's such a pleasure to be hosting another blog tour for one of Karl Drinkwater's books today. Many thanks to Karl and to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novella.

Grubane is the second Lost Tales of Solace story after Helene and once again is set just before the full-length novel, Lost Solace. This self-contained novella can very easily be read as a standalone but returning readers will appreciate discovering how the series ties together.
Here, the central characters are Major Grubane (who also features in Lost Solace) and the ship's AI  - Aurikaa12. One of the highlights of this series is the important role the AI characters are given; they are not merely devices designed to engender a sense of intrigue or fear as to their eventual capabilities, and their developing abilities  - and concurrent sentience - are a welcome feature in these thought-provoking books. The conglomerate AI for the Aurikaa cruiser is made up of a hundred level 6 AI splinters and while AI levels two to five perform subsidiary back-up, it's the new sixes that compose the overall mind. Aurikaa12 is Grubane's personal splinter and has thus developed differently from its siblings and though supposedly incapable of experiencing feelings, acknowledges that they see it as mildly divergent or corrupted and it considers them overtly functional.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Twelve is developing beyond its apparent capabilities and though it is clearly superior in many ways to humans, it's also obvious that it envies some human abilities. Unlike the previous books, Twelve hasn't adopted sexual characteristics and thinks it would be happy with indeterminate plurality, wryly observing that humans are uncomfortable with non-binary systems. It also realises that it could use this discomfort for analysis, predictions and manipulation during interpersonal relations and although this is undoubtedly an aspect of Twelve's personality which is potentially unsettling, it plays chess games against Grubane and may be merely adapting its tactics in order to gain an advantage over a worthy opponent. 
Throughout the novella there are excerpts from Grubane's treatise entitled 'The Philosophy and Application of Ancient Games' in which he discusses chess strategies which could equally apply to militaristic actions. Like Twelve, Grubane is a master tactician but when a third party interferes in his mission, it becomes ever more difficult to figure out exactly who is doing the bluffing. This clever novella twists throughout, meaning I was never quite sure of the outcome.
Grubane's intricate, intelligent plot belies its relatively short length as Karl Drinkwater explores geopolitical tensions and control amidst a background of identity and belonging. Though set in a world very different from our own, the humans here aren't so unrecognisable with their dogmatic beliefs and sense of superiority based on skin colour uncomfortably familiar.
There is so much potential here for further development of these characters and I would welcome a return visit to the Aurikaa. Twelve's perceptive observations are frequently peppered with the the dry wit I've come to associate with the AI characters in this series and Major Grubane is a fascinating, complex man who I hope we see more of in the future. The world-building within the Solace world continues to excel and I highly recommend both Grubane and the series as a whole to anybody who enjoys astute, immersive science-fiction.

Purchasing links for Grubane can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but lived in Wales for twenty years, and now calls Scotland his home. He's a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.

He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you'll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.

When he isn't writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies. Not necessarily in that order.
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