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No rest for the wicked.

Such is the theme of Hell Bound, Andrew P. Weston’s newest addition to his growing collection of novels. The souls of Earth’s most vile and despicable humans are cast into Hell, rolled like dice into a sinister House where injustice is the high card and evil’s the royal flush. Their dealer: Daemon Grim, Satan’s very own pit boss . . . who just so happens to be the Grim Reaper. Imbued with supernatural powers and a list of the damned, Grim drags the very worst of humanity to Hell, where they spend eternity in various levels of pain and horror - and where they never seem to win the hand. Because, after all, eternal damnation isn’t meant to be fun.

There are two things that struck me very early on while reading Ken Liu’s exquisite opening stanza to The Dandelion Dynasty series. The first is that I hope I never see The Grace of Kings on my television or in a movie theatre. The second is that I cannot remember the last time I actually felt refreshed after reading a novel.

Let me explain.

Simplicity in the midst of intricate complexity.

Such is the cornerstone of Andrew P. Weston’s masterful science fiction novel, The IX. Tens of thousands of lightyears from Earth and centuries into the future, an astoundingly advanced alien culture is falling prey to those who use their advancement against them. Known as The Horde, this vast and seemingly instinctive race of predators are feasting upon the Ardenese, whose technology fails to provide them with weapon powerful enough to defeat their enemy. As the Ardenese hurtle towards extinction, they place the essence of their culture into The Ark, a technological marvel existing over a fracture in space time. Using the fracture to their advantage, the Ardenese program their computer, The Architect, to scan time and space for the best candidates to defeat The Horde. Swept up at the moment of their death, these selected few are tasked with the unenviable goal of destroying The Horde - or falling victim to the clutches of the beasts.

It’s a genius concept: Need to kill someone? Use an intern.

“Interns are invisible,” you see. They sneak under the radar at any corporation - they are the coffee makers, the paper pusher, the insects buzzing around the lowest levels of the food chain - but provide a perfect cup of coffee and an exceptionally written “I’d-rather-die-than-spend-my-day-doing-that” document of monotony? That insect can inconspicuously attach to any higher power and equally as inconspicuously terminate their existence. After all, who’s going to look at an intern for murder?

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