After reading the synopsis I was really looking forward to immersing myself in this book. Sadly it didn’t quite deliver. It did keep my attention and some of the passages were exciting, but the characterisation was underdeveloped for my taste and there were several points that as a woman, hit a nerve.
There are many personalities that we are introduced to and for me there were too many. The main two are Sorcha, a focused, driven and if somewhat brainwashed soldier whose sole purpose is to serve and then die a ‘glorious death’ (meaning to die in battle). Professor Helms, a genius whose actions contradict, until we are given answers halfway through the book, and who I also become to like, even though the ending for this character is a little cliched. There are many other characters who play a large part in the story and there’s a lot of dialogue between them, but there is not enough inner reflection. With the exception of Dr Hugo Daal, who is exceedingly irritating in my opinion, I didn’t really get to know any of the characters and to completely immerse myself in a novel I have to know the characters and their thoughts.
There’s a lot of double-dealing, lies, secrets and they are all revealed by the end of the book, which was rather satisfying. I’m not one for ambiguity in a stand alone novel. There are deaths of certain main characters, which I’m sure should have caused a gasp or two when they were killed, but because I didn’t really get to know the characters, the shock was never felt. To be honest I didn’t really care.
The most disappointing aspect to this novel is that the typical stereotypes are all still here. Even though, as a species, we are now able to travel to distant planets and completely take over with apparent ease. Even though we are now able to live for hundreds of years. Even though we have moved on so much in so many ways, women are still sexual objects treated like inferior beings.
Women soldiers are fondled, groped, sexually abused and raped (as most of the sexual encounters that were hinted at were against the woman’s wishes). This is not what I enjoy reading about. Even Sorcha, an intelligent, high ranking soldier, had to succumb and fall for a guy, (professor Helms), and act like a love sick school girl. She hated him, then loved him, then hated him again. And although he was described as a not very attractive man or particularly appealing physically, somehow he was just so amazing in bed then she managed to orgasm five times in a row! Hmmm… Really?
Apart from the very obvious sexism, this book did have some good qualities. Palmer’s world-building is pretty detailed, although at times complex. The description of the planet and it’s inhabitants are excellent. I enjoyed reading about the intelligence of other life-forms, but then saddened to think that we as human being could just wipe out an entire planet for our own uses. Then again, a species will always fight to survive, so I suppose if we had nowhere else to go and our own species depended on that particular planet to live, maybe I could see us performing such a terrible act.
Red Claw is an interesting read and at times exciting. It did keep my attention, but overall there were just too many points that were of the negative kind and kept me from really enjoying it. And lastly, I didn’t like the cover either.