Note from the Reviewer: Happy New Year to all of Epicstream’s readers! Be sure to keep up with Epicstream in the new year to see what’s in store for 2016.
Time-traveling, second chances after certain death, distant planets, overcoming a powerful, dangerous enemy – all of these concepts have been major staples of science fiction and fantasy since the genres were first conceived. I have read so many novels that often felt like a retelling of a specific plot structure, so many that featured these aspects in the same ways as fantasy or science-fiction “classics,” so many stories simply updated for a new generation. While there is truly nothing new under the sun, Andrew Weston’s The IX is a refreshing read that incorporates all of these classic aspects in a way that truly feels new.
The blurb for The IX describes the novel thus: “Soldiers from varying eras and vastly different backgrounds, including the IX Legion of Rome, are snatched away from at the moment of their passing, and transported to the far side of the galaxy.” I honestly didn’t think all of this would mesh well in the narrative, but Weston’s finesse with character and powerful command of language made even this most audacious idea read smoothly. In fact, The IX has quickly become one of my favorite books, period.
While reading The IX, I summarized its plot as working in the same way that the premise of the Night at the Museum movie series works. Both works feature characters of note and of legend from different points in time and vastly different cultures, taking even sworn enemies and pitting them together in the face of a common enemy. Night at the Museum is a fantasy-comedy movie, but while Weston’s The IX does have comical moments, it ultimately goes to much darker places with much higher stakes.
The characters within The IX are from different times, different cultures, and even different planets, but it’s never confusing as to who is who. Weston’s use of diction makes his characters distinctive. Be they Roman legionnaires, Native American warriors, or twenty-first century high-tech mercenary teams, every nuance of personality comes through. There is no real main character in the novel, but instead a rotating cast of characters. Though this many points of view could have spiraled out of control in a less experienced author’s hands, Weston has a real mastery with balancing so many characters in such a complex narrative.
Speaking of the narrative, other than the basic premise that brings all the characters together, Weston makes calculated leaps of logic: Roman legionnaires training other members in marching movements, twenty-first century diamond miners leading expeditions, ancient folklore of Native Americans and highlanders leading the fight back against a persistent enemy. The cultures from various eras interact and mesh in extraordinary ways, and yet The IX always preserves those cultures distinctly. They cooperate but always retain the characteristics that make them unique, and the conflicts that develop are understandable. Weston works suspense and danger into the novel in digestible doses: enough to keep it interesting, but never overwhelming.
If you come back from watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and find yourself pining for a galaxy far, far away with a few familiar elements, I highly recommend The IX by Andrew P. Weston.