I have been wanting to try to read more independent science fiction books and so when I heard the ads for Grendel's Shadow on a podcast that I regularly listen to I knew it was a great place to start. I knew Andrew Mayne was an interesting person who can tell a good story and combining that with a cover price of only 99 cents the risk was very minor. I am glad I tried this because it was a lot of fun.
The story feels in many ways more like classic than modern science fiction. It is quick paced with a hero that feels like a character out of the pulp fiction tales. A biologist and the universes’ greatest hunter he travels to worlds to hunt dangerous animals. What makes this feels like those pulp fiction tales is that this is a world which has chosen to live at a lower level of technology. This means that they can’t use any of the very high level technology which would otherwise exist. Instead they are stuck with riverboats and muskets. This allows the singularity level technology to exist outside of the story so that it doesn’t overwhelm everything as it often does (both for good and bad) in modern science fiction.
Since this is a hunting story much of the science fiction is based on the ecosystem of this world. And in many ways the stories feel similar to those I grew up hearing in Montana from the men I knew who would bow hunt or track bears. That feeling that you are hunting a predator which has every advantage except that of intelligence comes through in the story.
The Grendel's Shadow is a well paced, smart book that is short not because the author couldn’t have done far more in this world, but because it was the perfect length for the story that he wanted to tell so that by the end you’re happy to have reached the conclusion while at the same time a bit disappointed that there isn’t more to read and by the end I had largely forgotten that this was an author who was new to writing fiction and was simply enjoying myself. So, if you have a kindle, or don’t mind reading a book on a tablet, smart phone or computer I strongly suggest spending the .99 cents at amazon to download this and read it, or if you’re unable to do that then check out the Grendel's shadow podcast which is the audio version of the book.