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And so Began the War

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Loved it! 😍

An amazing sci-fi epic, full of danger and despair, marred by poor choice of book format

Synopsis

Zoe Evelyn Lionheart, a young roboticist, and her house-robot, Herbert, are inadvertently swept away on an adventure to stop a war, after a powerful government vies for control of a much smaller, but technologically superior nation. When the smaller nation's government refuses to be controlled, robot production is put into overdrive in an attempt to create a robot army, alarming the world-renowned roboticist, Michael Alouicious Copperpot.

After Lord President Smythe and Vice-President Perriwinkle realise that the robots are disobeying their expertly hacked programming, they resort to unleashing an army of mindlessly obedient clones to overthrow the robots and take control of the resistant nation.

Seeing how events are about to unfold, and concerned that the people of the world they created are about to destroy themselves, The First Five Gods send in one of their own - Dalfor, The God of Order & Chaos - to try and soften the blow of the war and prevent things from getting out of hand.

To me, robots and sci-fi go hand in hand as an obvious natural pairing. Take the futuristic elements that come with talking and walking robots, the conflict of robots armed to the teeth and humans having a growing fear of mechanical dominancy, and the philosophical questions that abound from the relationship between flesh and gear, and you get an amazing sci-fi hit that’s just waiting for stardom.


Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this genre pairing has been picked up in recent times. Aside from visual mediums (think Terminator, Transformers and Gundam), there isn’t much exploration as to how the robot sci-fi genre could fit in a book format. For those wondering what it would be like to have a futuristic, mechanical world set in a pseudo-English historical backdrop, with loads of interesting mechs and engaging human companions, then Ian Hollis has the book for you.


And So Began The War has so much going for it — a read that one can immediately identify as being a smash hit for the sci-fi genre. The breadth of the world, the detail he provides about each faction, robot and person in the novel, as well as the carefully created overall plot of the novel, deserves a huge mention. The only thing that holds it back from achieving a perfect rating, in my book, is due to the chosen format of the novel. The manner in which sentences are structured, where dialogue takes precedence above all else, and the speed at which the story is conveyed, would look far more familiar as a script rather than a tome.


Regardless, if one can look past that faux pas, it’s a sci fi epic for robot nerds everywhere and I, for one, am dying for a sequel.


***SPOILERS AHEAD***


An Amazingly Crafted and Playful World


Every sci-fi epic needs a sprawling world, a chaotic playground in which the characters can truly find themselves. With respect to this aspect, And So Began The War does not dissapoint. From the Lesser Continent to the Greater and Fourth Continent. Ian Hollis keeps the naming conventions for his country states easy to follow. The world he’s crafted, however, is anything but easy. State governments, systems and societies all differ among each continent, all united by their love of everything mechanical, whether that love has a sinister element to it or not.


Away from geography, the history that Ian has managed to weave through all the pages, with the legend of The First Five Robots being a consistent theme that plays an important role in the overall plot of the novel, being an especially interesting aspect of the novel, for me, as I sought to learn more about the legends, to broaden my understanding of the events that are transpiring with each turn of the page.


It takes an experienced and passionate mind to make convoluted ideas, themes and cultures simple to follow and Ian has nailed it in this novel. An amazing, sprawling world that all readers can enjoy with the flip of each, individual page.


Robots, Robots Everywhere


The main selling point of the novel, however, is what definitely hit it on the head for me. Robots. I mean, just the word itself conjures up childhood memories of watching Saturday morning cartoons, like Transformers, with breakfast in hand, mouth agape and mind blown by the sheer ‘technological marvel’ of Optimus turning into a truck every couple of minutes.


Here, the technological marvels are well and truly revealed with every chapter, with every new character met, and every new continent explored. As with any mech-inspired sci-fi novel, robots take the main stage in Ian’s novel and, by God, there are so many of them! Robots that come in all shapes and sizes, of all cultures and backgrounds, whether peaceful or aggressive, whether helpful or ambitious, whether possessing a soul or not.


The presence of robots as being more than just merely nuts and bolts slapped together and walking around the protagonists, instead being thrusted forward as the protagonists, in and of itself is incredibly refreshing. Following the adventures of robots instead of their human companions, such as the amiable Dalfor, the multiple Donovan robots or even the gentle and friendly Herbert (who is more than meets the eye in this novel) has been a treat and a half, and I can’t wait to see where these characters end up in the sequel to come.


More Script Than Novel


Despite the engrossing story, engaging theme and the excitement that naturally comes with the word ‘robot!’, I felt that there were aspects of the novel that just let me down. Personally, I am not a huge fan of scripts that pretend to be novels (which is why The Cursed Child was a really difficult read for me). Like pineapple on pizza, everything has its place and every place has its thing. Scripts should not be called a book, and books should not be called scripts.


The script-likeness of the novel is a major turn off for me. Emphasis on dialogue is so heavy handed, that I felt like I was just reading a constant conversation between the same two people in every chapter, even if the characters all switch around, depending on which point of view is being explored then. Dialogue is great, but without the explorative potential that books give you, the exposition dumps that gives readers more information and kindles their imagination, the subtle emotional and character descriptive nuances one can just tease with an adjective or noun, robs the novel of some of it’s potential to be great.


Conclusion


If you can look past the weird choice of making it more script than novel, then this sci-fi war epic, with robots of all shapes and sizes, is definitely a recommended read for fans of the genre everywhere.

Reviewed by

Andy James Trevors is a 25 year old indie author living in Melbourne, Australia. A.J. initially wrote as a coping mechanism to deal with stress from law school which inevitably bloomed into a passion for sharing creative stories with the world.

Synopsis

Zoe Evelyn Lionheart, a young roboticist, and her house-robot, Herbert, are inadvertently swept away on an adventure to stop a war, after a powerful government vies for control of a much smaller, but technologically superior nation. When the smaller nation's government refuses to be controlled, robot production is put into overdrive in an attempt to create a robot army, alarming the world-renowned roboticist, Michael Alouicious Copperpot.

After Lord President Smythe and Vice-President Perriwinkle realise that the robots are disobeying their expertly hacked programming, they resort to unleashing an army of mindlessly obedient clones to overthrow the robots and take control of the resistant nation.

Seeing how events are about to unfold, and concerned that the people of the world they created are about to destroy themselves, The First Five Gods send in one of their own - Dalfor, The God of Order & Chaos - to try and soften the blow of the war and prevent things from getting out of hand.

Introductions

Zoe Evelyn Lionheart, or Eve as she preferred to be called, came rushing in through the front door of her and her mother’s rather lovely inherited three bedroom, fourth-floor apartment, dragging her suitcase behind her.

Tall and slender with long blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes, Eve was a well-mannered teenager, studious, and hard-working with an unquenchable thirst for adventure.

“Oh, you’re back,” said her mother, Bethany, sitting in an armchair, knitting. “You’ve been gone for, what, two or three weeks now?”

“Mom, I’ve been gone for more than six weeks. About six and a half in total.”

“Oh. Well you know what I’m like with the passing of time, dear. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, that I’m never entirely sure how much time has passed.”

“Where’s Herbert?”

“In the spare room’s cupboard.”

“Mom! He’s a robot, not an appliance.”

“Then why are they all advertised as ‘Your all-in-one household appliance’?”

“Well he’s not an appliance to me.

“Oh, gosh, Zoe. You’re so fond of that robot.”

“Herbert’s what sparked my childhood love of robotics in the first place.”

“Anyway, how was your trip to The Lesser Continent?”

“Great,” replied Eve, going to the spare room. “Amy and I went all the way up to the northern shores.”

“Wow, that far north huh? Can’t be much to see up there.”

“Mom, it’s beautiful up there. The trees, the forest, the rocky beach. I loved it.”

“Did you see anything interesting?”

“Actually, yeah. Amy noticed it before I did, but there was a rowboat just sitting there on the shore. It was in pretty good condition, too.”

“Huh. That does seem unusual for somewhere so remote. There wasn’t anyone around?”

“Nope. Just me and Amy.”

Eve opened the closet door and smiled when she saw Herbert, her six foot tall, brown coloured, green eyed robot. Herbert, being an older model, had a more industrial build than the newer, sleeker robots. “There you are.”

“Ma’am.”

“Herbert,” she laughed. “You know you can call me Eve.”

“Yes, Ma’am, but it goes against my programming.”

“Herbert, considering it was me who gave you most of your programming, I’m giving you full permission as your owner for you to call me Eve.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Okay. Clearly we’ve still got a little work to do.”

Bethany called out to Eve to ask if she was returning to the living room. “Coming, Mom,” she called out as she took Herbert’s hand and told him to go with her.

“Do you mind if I use the dining table to tinker on Herbert?” she asked her mother.

“No, not all. Go ahead. I’ll probably just eat something light for dinning tonight, anyway.”

 

After a few hours delightfully tinkering away at Herbert, Eve shouted, “I did it!” in utter delight.

“What’s that, honey?” asked her mother, inquisitively.

“I’ve successfully configured Herbert to adjust his own temperature without his circuits overheating.”

“Meaning what exactly?”

“Meaning he can now function as a heater in winter and a cooler in summer.”

Eve’s mom looked over at the air-conditioner by the window and the heater by her feet. “Huh. Can you make him into a bug zapper, too?”

“Actually, yeah. You know with summer just around the corner that’s actually not a bad idea,” said Eve, thinking seriously about the idea.

“So much like your father. He always had that look on his face when I’d make an idle suggestion about what else he could do with his robots,” she said, a hint of nostalgia in her voice.

“Yeah. I miss Dad too, sometimes, but the robotics keeps me focused.”

“So can you make him into a bug zapper?”

“I’ll get right on it,” said Eve, picking up some odds and ends to further work on Herbert.

“Now you make sure to tag your code like your father taught you so once you’ve uploaded that code to the public servers, everyone will know it was you, okay?”

“Yeah, Mom, I know,” said Eve, smiling.

What Eve hadn’t told her mother is that her ‘tagline’ was her own unique coding of a rather primitive and little known DNA sequencing encryption technique which linked the code not only to her, but directly to her DNA so only she could make excessive alterations to the code and anyone else who tried wouldn’t be able to without Eve’s DNA.

“Wow. Go get ’em, princess.”

“Princess?” laughed Eve.

“You’ll always be ‘princess’ to me, Zoe.”

“Mum, please. Everyone calls me Eve.”

“Your father and I named you Zoe because we wanted to call you Zoe.”

“Oh, you mean so you don’t confuse me with Aunt Zoe, Great-Aunt Zoe, Grandma Zoe, Uncle Zoe and my two cousins Zoe and Zoe on either side of the family? You know, at family reunions and stuff?”

“Just give me this one. I try to understand your robotics, Zoe, but you know I don’t. So please, just give me this one, okay?”

“Okay, Mom.”

 

A few days later, Eve’s best friend Amy came over and Eve showed her the adjustments she’d made on Herbert.

Amy was shorter and stouter than Eve, long dark hair, dark eyes, wore glasses and had tanned skin. Every bit as studious and academic as Eve, just not particularly good with robotics.

“Oh my God, that’s so cool. How do you even do that?”

“If you put your mind to it, Amy, you can accomplish anything.”

“Yeah, right. I wish that was as true for me as it is for you.”

“With robotics, you mean?”

“With anything.”

“Well, I’ve been into robotics since I was seven years old and you only got into it, what? A few years ago, right?”

“Yeah. When we started high-school. That’s how we first met, if I recall.”

“Yes, I recall. You were having a lot of trouble, so I came over to help.”

“I felt so bad that I’d taken you away from your project, worried that you’d end up behind the others.”

“I remember,” said Eve, smiling. “But little did you know I’d already finished my three projects, and was already onto my fourth.”

Amy mused about how back in those days she was more into biology and genetics, and only because of meeting Eve had she started developing her interest in robotics. “I had no idea that robots had their own kind of biology. That totally blew me away and is what’s kept me interested in robots to this day.”

“Biology and genetics is kind of cool though…” began Eve.

“Eve, I know that look. What are you thinking about now?”

“Well if you got really good at biology and genetics, and I mean really good, you could potentially go about hybridizing different life forms. Lizards with bats. Trees with people. The possibilities would be endless. You could even create some sort of magnificent beast that is master of land, sea, and sky,” she finished with a wild glint in her eye.

Amy laughed. “You mean like one of the Five Mythical Beasts? Or legendary beasts, or whatever they are?”

“Oh gosh, Amy, yes! Exactly like that. And I think ‘legendary’ or ‘mythical’ doesn’t matter.”

 “You know, Eve,” said Amy, still laughing. “Sometimes you can be a real weirdo.”

“Yeah, well you know what?”

“What?”

“Sometimes it’s the weirdos who change the world.”

“Well that’s quite enough for me for one day,” said Amy, smiling and pushing herself away from the table. “I’m gonna go now. I’ll see you next time, okay?”

“Okay.”

 

 

 

Alan Peabody or Mr. Peabody, as he was known to his customers

 

On an ordinary day in The Lesser Continent’s Capital City, or Capital C as it was affectionately referred to by the locals, Mr. Peabody’s Video Arcade, expertly located at the end of a busy street in the middle of the city, was as busy as ever. Even though it had been open for more than seven years the royal blue carpet seemed to somehow retain that ‘new carpet’ smell.

People of all ages came here to hang out with their friends and it didn’t hurt that Mr. Peabody also owned the milk bar next door which had a rather large opening through to his arcade.

Today was especially popular as, only last night, Mr. Peabody had received and set up the Battle Robot Five Thousand, not due to be officially released for another six weeks.

Mr. Peabody had signed an exclusivity contract with Mr. Copperpot’s Robot Production Factory which allowed him to showcase any of Mr. Copperpot’s new line of robots.

The kids had been waiting a long time for this one because it was the first one that had moves more complicated than a single kick, punch, or block, which the children tired of quickly. This model was said to be created in the likeness of The God of Order & Chaos. The second of The First Five Gods, the five legendary robots from the world’s creation myths. It wore gold, intricately detailed armour, adorned with all manner of things such as flowers and people, and ancient symbols from days gone by. Its eyes glowed as red as red could be. The top of the helmet on its head reminiscent of a crown.

 

As Mr. Peabody finished up for the night before heading home, the robot spoke: “Mr. Peabody.”

Quickly glancing in the direction of the robot, Mr. Peabody, after what was a very busy day, thought he’d imagined his name being called, but again the robot spoke: “Mr. Peabody, your attention is required.”

“That’s strange,” said Mr. Peabody out loud, walking over to the robot. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“There’s a war coming.”

“Yeah, I heard. I’ve been hearing it all day. ‘A war is coming that can likely not be averted. Shall you be the one to stop the oncoming war?’ Or something like that, anyway,” said Mr. Peabody, quoting the robot’s opening lines at the beginning of each game.

“No, Mr. Peabody, you don’t understand. There’s an actual war coming, and I’ve come here to help prevent it from happening. Time is limited.”

Mr. Peabody considered what the robot said and wondered if it just needed a check-up.

“Do you mind if I take you home for the weekend? You might have an error in your programming. In fact, let’s have a look right now, shall we?”

Mr. Peabody undid the robot’s back panel and saw the most perfect, pristine, immaculate wiring he’d seen in his life along with a screen running some high-level code with which he was entirely unfamiliar.

 “What is this code? I’ve not seen anything like it.”

 “Mr. Copperpot referenced some old history books to find the type of code that would have likely been used by The First Five Gods and used that as a template for the code you see before you now,” mentioned the robot.

“What are these letters, ‘D-A-L-F-O-R’? Is it short for something, I wonder?” uttered Mr. Peabody to himself, not quite hearing the robot.

“The letters are my name. At least I think that’s what they are.”

“Right. Dalfor it is then. Nice to meet you, Dalfor, I’m Alan. But as you’ve obviously noticed, everyone here just calls me ‘Mr. Peabody.’”.

“Sir. The code. It’s what history says was used by The First Five Gods.”

“Oh, yeah, right. You said before.”

The code running on the screen in Dalfor’s back panel was red on a black background and for a brief moment turned green. “What was that about?”

“My freedom is hanging in the balance, I –” and before Dalfor could say more, his voice became garbled.

“Right. It looks like I’ll definitely be taking you home, Dalfor. Lucky for me, tomorrow’s the start of a three-day holiday, which means I’ve got plenty of time to figure out what’s wrong with you. Can you walk if I take you out of this small arena?”

“Thank you, Mr. Peabody, and yes, I can walk. I’m a fully functioning Mr. Copperpot original.”

“Right, you’re coming home with me then.”

 

Alan’s teenage son, Nathaniel, was excited to see that his dad had brought home the Battle Robot Five Thousand. “Sorry, son, not tonight. He’s broken, and lucky for me, I’ve got three whole days to fix him,” he was told.

The next day Alan worked on Dalfor in his workshop while Nathaniel watched and helped.

“So what’s wrong with him?”

“He was trying to tell me something about a war last night and then his voice box became garbled. I don’t want kids in the arcade to have to listen to a robot with a faulty voice box, do I?”

“Yeah, no. True enough.”

Suddenly, Dalfor’s head, which had been placed on a workbench said, “Tinkerton’s Tea Party is coming to town.”

Alan and Nathaniel looked at each other, perplexed by what they heard.

“What was all that about?” asked Mr. Peabody.

“Yeah, and what is ‘Tinkerton’s Tea Party’? Unless he’s talking about the historical figure Professor Albert Tinkerton and his old toy factory. That wouldn’t still be operating anymore, would it?”

“Nope. It wouldn’t have been in operation since your third great grandfather was a toddler. I’m surprised you even know about it, to be honest.”

“Yeah. I had to look it up for a school report this one time.”

As the hours wore on and more time had passed than either Alan or Nathaniel had realized, Mrs. Peabody called them both out for dinner.

“Gee, Dad, I didn’t even realize we’d been working on Dalfor for so long.”

“Nor I, lad.”

At dinner, Mrs. Peabody voiced her concerns over the growing potential for war, remarking what she’d seen on the news about the election of The Greater Continent’s new vice president. “A wicked man if ever there was one, that Andrew Periwinkle. Not too sure I trust that Montgomery Smythe fella, either.”

“Jeez, Mum, there’s not much we can do about the government of another country, is there?”

“Right you are, I suppose. A lot of those robots are being reported as going faulty, you know? The ones that were made here on The Lesser Continent but shipped over to the Greater Continent.”

“Do you know why that’s worrying?” asked Mr. Peabody, turning to Nathaniel.

“Because of how Dalfor’s acting?” Nathaniel suggested.

“No. Because the robots aren’t made here and they never have been.”

“Sure they are. They’re made at Mr. Copperpot’s Robot Production Factory, up in the north, I think.”

“True. However, that factory is neither on this continent, nor the other one.”

“Well it has to be on one of them.”

“Nope. It’s in the Frozen Wastelands of the Far-North Continent.”

“There’s another continent?” replied Nathaniel in shock.

Mr. Peabody raised his index finger to his lips and lightly shook his head.

“Oh, I see. But… Can we go there one day?” asked Nathaniel cautiously. “I mean you know Mr. Copperpot, right?”

“Sorry, mate. Best not be visiting such far-off places,” said Mr. Peabody, loudly enough for his wife to hear. “But I’ll see what I can do,” he whispered to Nathaniel.

 

 

 

Montgomery Smythe, or Mr. Smythe as he was known to his associates

 

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.”

The boardroom, as grey as the clouds in the sky, was filled with bureaucrats, representatives of nations, various politicians and the newly appointed Lord President Montgomery Smythe, who adored his purple pinstripe suit, with matching fedora and trench coat.

“Now that there’s a new pecking order, we need to do something about that little shit of a country just across the way,” said the president, gesturing towards a world map. “We’re a conglomerate of nations and they’re just one pissy little island nation over the ocean. In short, we’re big and they’re small, and therefore we should have their technology under our control. The problem is that the best of our technology is probably the worst of theirs. So how do we overpower them to the point where they’ll just give in?”

The Vice-Present, Andrew Periwinkle, a rather portly gentlemen, raised his hand. “Mr. President?”

“Don’t ever call me ‘Mr. President’, okay? My surname’s not ‘President’, it’s Smythe, so by all means, please call me Mr. Smythe. Anyway, go ahead.”

Mr. Copperpot’s Robot Production Factory recently made public that it was looking at creating a new class of even more advanced robots than their current line.”

More advanced? How more advanced can you get? Have you seen those things?”

“Mr. Copperpot’s life-long dream is to create robots in the likeness of The First Five Robots, but it seems that after he poured all of his resources into making one of the gods, he now lacks the funding to make the remaining four.”

“Oh, I think I can see where you’re going with this, kid. Carry on.”

“I was thinking that, being the greater nation that we are, we could offer to fund the project ourselves and eventually have an entire army of robots, led by the First Five Robots, which we could use to easily overpower the Lesser Nation.”

Mr. Smythe stared blankly at the board member for a moment.

“Sir?”

“That is an excellent idea. Somebody make a phone call.”

 

 

Michael Alouicious Copperpot, or Mr. Copperpot as he was known to his admirers

 

In the Frozen Wastelands of the Far North Continent, a tall man with a neatly trimmed beard, dressed in a grey double-breasted vest and a suit to match, fob watch and all, sits in his chair, video conferencing with government officials from The Greater Continent. He is negotiating whether or not he’s prepared to produce the remaining four of The First Five Robots.

“I’m sorry, but there’ve been some unexpected complications with the first one.”

“And what do you mean by ‘complications’ exactly?” asked Andrew Periwinkle.

Knowing that he couldn’t tell them that the first one just up and left of its own accord, Mr. Copperpot decided to stall for time by asking them if they’d like to visit his factory and see for themselves.

“I don’t see how visiting your factory will help us better understand your aforementioned ‘complications’ exactly.”

“It’d just be easier for me to show you rather than tell you. Particularly if you sent over one of your roboticists. No offense, but a roboticist would have a better understanding of what I’m trying to communicate than a politician would.”

“Understood,” said Mr. Smythe. “I’ll have a team of men over there in three days.”

“Right. I’ll make arrangements to see that they’re properly greeted.”

“Excellent. Nice doing business with you, Mr. Copperpot.”

 

 

 

Lord President Montgomery Smythe and his Vice-President, Andrew Periwinkle, or Mr. Smythe and Vice-President Periwinkle as they were often referred to by the media

 

After the communications with Mr. Copperpot had taken place, Mr. Smythe asked Andrew to take a team of twelve men on an airship to Mr. Copperpot’s Robot Production Factory.

“Don’t you think twelve’s a little excessive, sir?”

“No, I don’t. Have three of them escort you to Mr. Copperpot’s office, three stay on the airship, and have the other six secretly wander around the factory and bring back with them at least one robot each.”

“Well I can escort myself to see Mr. Copperpot.”

“Taking three men with you will make it seem more official.”

“Understood, sir. And what about a roboticist?”

“What about a roboticist?” Mr. Smythe shrugged as he sat in his chair, put his feet up on the table and lit a cigar.

“Oh.”

About the author

A well-travelled English language teacher who enjoys creative writing and has dreams of one day becoming a filmmaker. view profile

Published on August 05, 2020

90000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by

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