Onyx Javelin is the
third part in Steve Wheelers ongoing story of human life out beyond Earths
solar system. Once again the focus is on the military engineering group that were the core
of the two early novels Burnt Ice and Crystal Venom.
In writing this book Steve Wheeler has channelled the spirit of science
fiction luminary Robert Heinlein. How one feels about Heinlein will determine the
readers response to this book, as it uses almost all of the stylistic tropes of that
Unlike previous parts in the story presented so far this novel was not
really a story unto itself. At the end of the book the action proper had only just begun.
Not something this reader expected from previous works from Mr Wheeler. Be warned: the
We met Steve Wheeler at Reconnaissance (the 2015 National SF&F
Convention), and he proved to be a very interesting person, with an unusual approach to
military SF he makes detailed models of the craft in his books, and photographs
them, often in natural landscapes. Then he employs them in his writing. When he told me to
go ahead and read this, the third book in his SF series, without having read the other
two, I took him at his word. Now, Im not so sure that was a good idea. It was fine
for the first few chapters, populated mainly by new characters, but as more and more older
characters were introduced who had been developed in the previous books, I found myself
floundering. There are a lot of characters here, in at least three main casts; the people
of the distant human colony Storfisk, the crew of the carrier Haast, and the crew of
Its a complex universe, too. Humanity is divided into several major
factions, disputes are settled by war games, and who knows whos doing what to
Then there are these vicious aliens called Urchins, who are in conflict with
humanity, along with their inscrutable octopoid masters. And then are ACEs, Artificially
Created Entities, often cybernetically enhanced, and in humanoid, animal or more exotic
forms yes, we can have dragons! One clever idea is the use of soul-savers
which allow characters to survive certain death, and be reincarnated immediately into a
mechanical chassis or grow a new biological body. This feature, together with the range of
possible character types and factions, and the great depth of detail, would make
Wheelers universe an excellent setting for role-playing games.
The plot focuses on events on the Storfisk colony world, and its invasion
by some very nasty alien predators. Theres plenty of action, a dose of mystery, and
some scenes of truly memorable beauty, amid a great deal of carnage and destruction. I
have to admit that I found Wheelers prose a bit awkward at times, forcing me to stop
reading while I figured out what he was saying, thus breaking the flow. And I would like
to have seen a bit more of the titular Onyx Javelin.
Steve Wheeler might not be the most elegant of writers, but he is a
wonderful imagineer. The depth and detail of his future galaxy is truly impressive. And
Im thinking that I was right, and this really was the novel that should have
received the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel award.