The Blockade (First Salik War book 3) by Jean Johnson (book review)

January 7, 2017 | By | Reply More

‘The Blockade’ is the third and final book in the ‘First Salik War’ series by author Jean Johnson. The other books in the series are ‘The Terrans’ and ‘The V’Dan’. I’ve not read the first two books so it will be a good test to see if this works as a standalone novel. I’m also new to the author not having read any of her previous work.

Firstly, a brief synopsis. The Salik are a vicious race of intelligent beings like frogs in their physical build but, of course, much, much larger. They have launched an all-out war against a collection of intelligent races known as the Alliance. This includes the V’Dan but not the Terrans, who have only just begun the process of joining. To make things a little more complicated, the V’Dan are actually a 10,000 year-old off-shoot of the Terrans. This is an important point as the world created by Johnson is complex. The Terrans and the V’Dan might be thought of as a single species, human, but they do have two very different civilisations. Some of the other races in the Alliance have trouble comprehending this and see the Terrans and V’Dan as one race with the Terrans being a long, lost cousin.

Relations between the Terrans and the V’Dan are a little strained due to one significant racial difference. As V’Dan progress into adulthood, they acquire coloured spots and stripes on their skin. Only the adolescents have clear unmarked skin, until that is the Terrans turn up. Unfortunately, many of the senior V’Dan can’t or won’t consider unmarked people as anything but adolescents and treat them as such. Of course, the Terrans don’t like this. Although the Terrans are late comers to the wider galactic party, they do have a couple of aces up their sleeve. There’s a couple of technological advantages such as their exceptionally fast Other Than Light drive space ships and equally fast communications arrays which none of the other races have. While it is shared to some degree with the other races, the Terrans or at least some of them are formidable, trained Psi adapts. While principally using their talents to be telepathic translators, they can exert mind control over objects, forces and mind control.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the two heroes. On the Terans side, we have Grand High Ambassador Jacaranda (Jackie) MacKenzie and for the V’Dan, step forward Imperial Prince Kah’raman Li’eth who happens to be third in line for the throne. He is also a latent Psi and, with the Terrans guidance, develops his mental powers. In one of the earlier books, he has become telepathically entangled with Jackie which has striking similarities with quantum entanglement. I did wonder if they had also become romantically entangled as they seem to have a close relationship. About a third of the way in one of them calls the other ‘beloved’, so I guess they are romantically involved.

It would be easy to dwell on the Terrans and V’Dan but the Salik are happily going around conquering planets and eating the vanquished. That’s any of the vanquished who survived the conquest and were unfortunate to be captured as the Salik like live food. It’s one of their little vices. The Terrans, aided by the other Alliance races, develop a plan to halt and hopefully defeat the Salik but this leaves them with a difficult moral question: How to defeat a race and stop their attacks without exterminating them?

I did like the author’s writing style and the military actions are very well done. The friction between the Terrans and the V’Dan is another interesting aspect although I though the V’Dan Empress was far too deferential to the Terrans. Coming back to the big question of does this work as a standalone novel the answer is both yes and no. I enjoyed ‘The Blockade’ which was largely self-contained except for the odd references to the mysterious Greys and a time travelling entity who shows up at the end.

Obviously, I would have got a lot more out of this novel if I had read the previous two. While I have not read all the books yet I would not hesitate to recommend the series. You do have accept telepathy is possible, which might be just a bit too much to ask of the people who are willing to believe in faster than light travel.

Andy Whitaker

January 2017

(pub: ACE/Penguin, 2016. 335 page paperback. Price: $ 7.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-42527-694-5)

check out website: www.penguinrandomhouse.com

Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi

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About the Author ()

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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