You can’t go wrong with space zombies.
As long-term readers of this blog (all three of you) will know, I’m a proud fan of The Phoenix Comic. I first heard about it during last summer’s Phoenix Fest, and I’ve been a subscriber long enough to fill up two rather large and colourful binders.
So far, the books I’ve reviewed from The Phoenix Presents – Pirates of Pangaea and Tales of Fayt – featured characters who had graced the pages of the comic in the days before my Phoenix fandom. (What would the term for that be, anyway? Phantom of the Opera already got in there with ‘Phan’.) But the latest book I was sent to review, Troy Trailblazer and the Horde Queen, follows characters I already knew well, albeit in a story I hadn’t read before.
Young space adventurer Troy, and his companions Jess (a former bounty hunter), Blip (a droid) and Barrus (a furry fighter who resembles a somewhat less articulate version of the X-Men’s Hank McCoy), follow a distress signal to the frozen planet of Siberus, where they discover a mining team who have been possessed by parasitic creatures that control their bodies.
Like I said, you can’t go wrong with space zombies, but the story doesn’t just leave it there. Jess’ body is taken over by the titular Horde Queen, in a sequence that is genuinely terrifying, and a whole other level of story unfolds, involving time travel, future versions of all of the main characters, and a heart-wrenching ending that would make the Doctor Who team go “Hey, steady on.”
Troy Trailblazer combines the humour and fantastic characterisation that I’ve come to expect from Phoenix stories with a fascinating and well-realised sci-fi universe. The story has shades not only of Doctor Who, but of Firefly and Star Wars (‘reluctant hero’ Troy occasionally resembles a younger, blonder Han Solo, with Barrus as a more compact Chewie). The story is pacey, with twists and turns that took me completely by surprise. Indeed, my only criticism – without giving too much away – is that the page limit and need to wrap up the story in one volume meant that the ‘resistance’ arc of the narrative wasn’t explored as deeply as I would have liked. But then, I’ve always had a weakness for sprawling epic tales.
Troy Trailblazer and the Horde Queen is a fun sci-fi romp, but with some serious emotional depth. Another triumph from The Phoenix Comic.
Alice’s books are available on Amazon and Smashwords. Her webcomics, co-created and illustrated by Emily Brady, can be found at the Footloose website. Ally rambles about writing, feminism, and odd questions that cross her mind on Twitter and Facebook.