Sway’s Demise – Jess Harpley

12 May

29739383After making peace with the desolate and stranded alien race, the Priyon, civilization limped on. Humanity occupies but a fraction of the globe at a stagnant abridgement of technology from the Priyon warning: Don’t rebuild, or the darkness that destroyed their world will come to Earth.

Now eight young men and women from a small community will be the only barrier between the enemy of old, and the survival of the human race. Can they persevere, or will it be their demise?

This year, I have mainly been reading serious stuff so its high time I went for something a little less so and Sway’s Demise was an enjoyable, light palate cleanser that flies along and kept me reading a lot longer than I had planned for.  I read this in two sittings, it would have been one but for my obstinate stomach demanding food, for which it was rewarded with a black coffee.

The clean design of the cover sums up perfectly what the book is about, the reader is treated to an action packed adventure with a high body count in a world gone backwards – but still with some future tech – thanks to war with aliens and the ever-present threat and paranoia that that brings.

There are many things I enjoyed about this book, Harpley’s take on sentient robots is refreshing, as is the human interaction which has become more pronounced due to the seismic shifts of the recent past that humanity finds themselves in.  This straddling of the low-tech personal and wider worlds is a welcome mix with one outlook influencing the other.

Information is given out in great dollops in the first part of the story, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps but with enough left to the imagination, that one wants to know precisely what it is all about.  It’s the good grounding of back story that gives the reader the details up front that which is key because the second half of the book is more like an action thriller than the dystopian sci-fi I was half expecting.  The combat – and there is a lot of it – was very reminiscent of Starship Troopers but with a much more complex enemy and an equally ambitious body count.

The interspersing of letters and thoughts from the alien perspective on events is a welcome change of pace and provides a more private insight so often lacking in the genre; so that we can understand not only the hierarchy of this invader but also the motivations, questions and fears of the mysterious race.  This makes for a much richer reading experience…I want to say this take makes them seem more human but that would be wrong by definition.

The ending was as enjoyable as it was unexpected, the drama gives way to a neat tying up of unanswered questions that the curious reader may have been speculating about for a time.  It’s gives a neat twist, inverting some of the ideas that I had assumed up to that point but also infuriatingly (the good kind, that is) throws more questions into the mix and could perhaps open up more stories within the same universe.

Sway’s Demise is a more tightly written and darker effort than the author’s debut The Mill, following for the majority of its length just one plot line – with brief forays to the other side of events – and is a really enjoyable read for anybody who fancies something pacy and short but with an intense action oriented plot and enough twists to keep readers entertained to the end.


Posted by on 12/05/2016 in Sci-Fi


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24 responses to “Sway’s Demise – Jess Harpley

  1. Lyn

    13/05/2016 at 00:23

    The cover really does say it all, doesn’t it. I have a copy of Andre Norton’s The Defiant Agents with a similar style cover. It was the very first SF book I ever read. My mother bought it for me by accident thinking it was about horses 😀 Loved it so much, I read it nearly every year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ste J

      13/05/2016 at 09:04

      The blurb doesn’t sound very horsey, I am glad that you not only liked it but also get to read it each year. Rereading is a challenge in my head, there’s just way too much choice, I am sure each book feels special to be read because of it though.


  2. Liz

    13/05/2016 at 08:16

    Sounds really good. My next Sci-Fi read is Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Said to have been an inspiration to a young Arthur C Clarke, its story spans a mere 5 billion years!! I gather that some of the 1930s material in the earliest chapters is now a bit dated, but it seemed like a good bet overall nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ste J

      13/05/2016 at 08:57

      That’s pretty epic scope for a 336 page book, it sounds like a good read. Sway’s Demise has gotten me into the mood for more Sc-Fi, it was a satisfying read and I look forward to more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz

        13/05/2016 at 09:22

        It’s so pleasing when a book delivers like that, isn’t it

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ste J

          13/05/2016 at 09:38

          It just flew by and was the pleasing juxtaposition to the books I seem to gravitate to more these days.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. clarepooley33

    13/05/2016 at 10:03

    Don’t let Anne Fadiman know you’ve read this! 😉 I often find that thrillers and the few Sci-Fi books I’ve read don’t give a back story so that this one does is quite refreshing.


    • Ste J

      13/05/2016 at 10:17

      Haha, brilliant, I am sure she would disregard all my opinions about everything ever if she knew I would choose to read Sci-Fi, I’m really not sure what her problem with the genre is. I like a bit of mystery sometimes but I agree too many books expect you to work out what’s going on and it is helpful to at least know what the situation is before the book really kicks off so I can enjoy it more.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sarah

    13/05/2016 at 12:31

    The voice in my head read the first part of your post in Hollywood blockbuster voice-over style. It sounded so good I continued in the same vein, and now I want to see the movie! 🙂


    • Ste J

      14/05/2016 at 09:21

      Interesting you should say that, I thought that about The Mill and was expecting the visuals in this one so I really didn’t pick up on it but yes it would make a good film and as kids will be going barmy for aliens again with Independence Day 2 coming out, perhaps now is the time to be hawking the idea around to the people that deal with this sort of thing. I wish all audio books were read by that one man who does all the film trailers at the cinema, I swear it is the same guy as well.


  5. Jilanne Hoffmann

    13/05/2016 at 20:15

    As much as I enjoyed your review, I’m thinking this one wouldn’t tempt me. Thank goodness. I have enough to read as it is….


    • Ste J

      14/05/2016 at 09:50

      Well if you do fancy something fast paced anytime this will be a good choice. This time my attempt to add to your list has been filed but I will be back like any good nefarious villain. I also live in a hollowed out volcano, the constant threat of magma to my books is a bit of a headache sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    13/05/2016 at 21:10

    I liked her debut novel, The Mill. This one, as you’ve said, sounds even more interesting 🙂 Nice review and, the cover looks great… 🙂


    • Ste J

      14/05/2016 at 10:09

      I remember you won the giveaway, free books are the best. This one is more fast paced and I felt for the characters a lot more, probably due to their situation.


  7. shadowoperator

    13/05/2016 at 23:35

    Wow, I haven’t read any sci-fi for ages! I got spoiled by Andre Norton and Frank Herbert and Sheri Tepper (the last is really fantasy, not sci-fi proper), and I don’t like much else in the category. I keep waiting to hear of some new book by Sheri Tepper, but so far no luck (as they say, if wishes were horses, then beggars might ride! Or alternatively, wish in one hand, spit in the other, and see which fills up faster).


    • Ste J

      14/05/2016 at 10:54

      The second mention of Andre Norton on this post, it makes me wonder what I’m missing…I need to look up Tepper too. There are some other fantastic books, Solaris was really enjoyable, very visual, although Sway’s Dmeise is more reminiscent of the film Starship Troopers which was a good romp as well. I feel in the mood for some sci-fi filmage now.


  8. shadowoperator

    14/05/2016 at 13:25

    Sheri Tepper is the author of (among other things) a three-part series called “The True Game Series.” about a young shape-shifting wizard named Peter, plus three attached books about his mother, Mavin Manyshaped, and three more about his mate, named Jinian. They are sterling and quite gripping. Another factoid for you is that Andre Norton is only a pen name, she’s actually a woman who I believe has other books under her real name, which, ironically, I have forgotten. As to Frank Herbert, I’ve read the whole of the “Dune” series, and would love to read it again, only I no longer have all the books. I think it’s simply one of the best sci-fi/fantasy tales around. Have you read it? I think there are seven or nine books, or something like that. Well worth the investment.


    • Ste J

      14/05/2016 at 21:33

      I have had the first one for years, I really need to read it, that and so many others lol, I hear some of the later books get a bit mental. I don’t know if Tepper’s books will be my thing based on your description but I will have a nosy at some if I see them, I have been known to be wrong before, I think it was in 1994 that it happened, what a dark day that was.


  9. Resa

    14/05/2016 at 16:04

    Wow, this one sounds like it would make a great video game!


    • Ste J

      14/05/2016 at 21:24

      Or a film, interestingly Jess does work in the games industry so I applaud your eye for a theme.


  10. macjam47

    16/05/2016 at 13:46

    I agree with Resa. I thought of the video games my grandsons play while reading your review. A wonderful review, as always, Steve.


    • Ste J

      17/05/2016 at 13:51

      I do need to play more video games which would open up a new avenue of books, if only there was more time.

      Liked by 1 person


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