Valhalla - Ari Bach

I picked up "Valhalla" after reading a review by Glen Hates Books. Take a look HERE. It was a good review. It was an even better book, which I probably wouldn't have found on my own.

 

Set in 2230, "Valhalla" tells the story of Violet, a teenage girl with the heart of a warrior, born into a society that sees violence as pathological and Violet as in need of a LOT of counseling.

 

At seventeen, on the brink of adulthood, Violet's family is murdered in front of her by the Orange Gang. Her response is instant, instinctive and lethal.

 

While the cops wait for her to fall into tears and request yet more counseling, Violet starts to figure out who killed her family and why. She joins the army so she can learn to be better at killing people but is thrown out because she's too violent.

 

The story kicks into higher gear when Violet is recruited by the legendary Valhalla, an independent group of heavily armed, cybernetically enhanced, very hard to kill and even harder to keep dead, warriors who see themselves as the good guys, and who's only rule is "Don't Fuck Shit Up".

 

This is a fun book that resists simple labels. It is a young adult right-of-passage book but its attitude towards religion (a cancer in society), violence (a way of letting off steam), and sex (as much fun as chocolate) is not going to get it into many school libraries. It is a science fiction book, filled with cool hi-tech weapons, medical techniques that can bring you back from the dead if your head is intact, and cyborg augmentation yet it is more focused on friendship and family and becoming yourself than it is on the toys. It is face paced and packed with violence, achieving a body-count that would make even Hollywood action movies blush, it even includes a very graphic torture scene and yet none of it feels voyeuristic or even particularly repellent because of the tone of the story-telling.

 

The book carried me along quite happily, although some of the training in Valhalla went on a little too long. The plot had some nice twists and left me looking forward to the next book in the series.

 

The audiobook version is read by Steve Carlson, an American in his seventies, with the voice of an avuncular uncle who is also the black sheep of the family. He does a good job. I enjoyed listening to him but I wondered why he was selected. Violet is seventeen years old and from Scotland. Most of the action is in Scotland, Siberia or Norway. This would have been a very different book if it had been read by Gayle Madine, who did such a good job with "The Panopticon".