Void Wraith and Eradication are the second and third books in indie author Chris Fox’s military science fiction trilogy beginning with Destroyer (review of which can be found here). These books continue the story of Nolan’s and the 14th fleet’s attempts to deal with the Void Wraith invasion.
I’ve decided to review these two books together, because the points I want to raise are essentially the same for both of them. The only difference between the two books is the degree to which those points apply to them.
In my review of Destroyer, I characterised the book as good, solid fun with serviceable writing and characterisations. These books are not that. Both of these books suffer from a couple important problems, with Eradication suffering more from those problems than Void Wraith.
Before I get further into that, however, I want to discuss the pre-story content found in these books. Both books begin with detailed summaries of the events that took place in the previous book(s). I love this idea. Whenever I pick up a new book in a series I haven’t read in a while, I’m torn between whether I should re-read the previous book(s), or whether I should see if I can find a good enough summary of the books online. Fox’s summaries completely solve this issue.
However, I find Fox’s implementation of this idea dreadful. In order to make those summaries engaging and entertaining, Fox decided to make them comedic. This is a bit of an odd choice, considering the books themselves are not very comedic; however this is not my main problem with Fox’s implementation. My main problem is that Fox’s jokes almost always make fun of the story itself. For someone who enjoyed Destroyer quite a bit, reading a mocking summary of that story in Void Wraith inevitably feels like the author has turned around and started mocking me for liking it. Moreover, jokes about which plot points were shamelessly stolen from which bits of media are very immersion-breaking.
So, in both Void Wraith and Eradication, I was left with a negative impression before I had even begun reading the books proper. Unfortunately, my negative impressions of those books only strengthened from there.
Destroyer had great pacing and an exciting plot. In the case of Void Wraith and Eradication, the pacing is still fine, but both plots lack excitement. I feel like this is due to two things. Firstly, the final thirds of both Void Wraith and Eradication lack the cleverness that was to be found in Destroyer. The final thirds are much simpler in these books. Secondly, I noted in my review of Destroyer that space ship battles were not described quite thoroughly enough for the reader to truly understand those situations fully. That remains the case in both Void Wraith and Eradication. While I found that to be fine in the case of Destroyer, by the time I got towards the end of Void Wraith, all the space ship battles had begun to feel very similar to each other. This remained true in Eradication. Yes, the battles got bigger, and there were more ships and bigger threats and an increasing amount hung on the results of those battles. But the mechanics of how those battles were conducted felt far too familiar. And familiarity is not exciting.
In my review of Destroyer, I also mentioned that the short chapters created a sense of immersion-breaking disjointedness to the story. That problem has gotten far worse in Void Wraith and Eradication. For one thing, these books rely more on having multiple points of view than Destroyer did. For another, these books occasionally have bigger jumps in time between chapters than Destroyer did, and I feel like Fox does not do a good enough job of establishing how large those jumps in time are—that is, how the chapters connect together. Because of these reasons, I found it very hard to get immersed in these two novels, which is something I find particularly problematic in plot-driven books.
Fox’s writing has also begun to suffer from repetitive characterisations. Throughout Void Wraith and Eradication, Fox creates certain stock phrases for each of his characters that characterise that particular character. Fox then repeats these same stock phrases throughout. The phrases themselves are fine, but they become grating when they get repeated almost word for word.
On a similar note, a problem Eradication suffers from is a repetitive insistence at character growth. Throughout the series, Nolan has had to grow to become better at commanding others. Which is great; even in a plot-driven book, it’s great to have some character growth, even if that growth is rather simplistic. However, Fox indicates this character growth to the reader with all the subtlety of a Major League Baseball player hitting a home run with your head. Not only does Fox have Nolan muse upon how much he has grown explicitly in his inner monologue, Fox decides that it is best that Nolan repeats these same musings almost word for word at regular intervals. As a reader, it makes me feel like I am being treated like an idiot. Nolan does grow as a character, and Fox should trust that the reader is smart enough to pick up on it without it being hammered into them.
Put shortly, Void Wraith and Eradication suffer from a small number of problems which lead me to recommend people to skip over these books, unless you simply have to find out how the plot ends. But I can assure you that you are not missing much if you don’t read these.