Publisher: Harper Audio (Audiobook – 29 December 2020)
Series: Planetside – Book Three
Length: 10 hours and 4 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
One of the most impressive rising stars in science fiction, Michael Mammay, returns with the third entry in his outstanding Planetside series, Colonyside, a captivating science fiction thriller that sees Colonel Carl Butler return for another epic adventure.
After blowing up a second alien planet, former war hero and current “disgrace” Colonel Carl Butler is living a quiet life as a recluse on a remote planet. While Butler is more than happy to be left alone by everyone, he knows that it is only a matter of time before the government or the military attempt to draft him into another crazy adventure. This time, a powerful and rich CEO wants the maverick Butler to head up an investigation into the disappearance of his estranged daughter on a newly formed colony.
Knowing the pain of losing a daughter, Butler reluctantly accepts the job and takes the next ship to Eccasis. Working with old associates Mac and Ganos, as well as a new government-assigned aide, Captain Fader, Butler soon finds himself leading an investigation in a controversial colony where a dangerous and lethal jungle environment lurks just outside the bio-dome. The missing woman, a talented biologist, disappeared whilst on a routine research mission for her father’s company out in the jungle. While most people believe that her disappearance can be blamed on the planet’s predatory megafauna, her father believes that there is more to the case.
While everything initially seems on the level, Butler soon becomes convinced that something more is afoot when someone tries to blow him up. As he begins his investigation in earnest, Butler is forced to contend with corrupt and incompetent local politicians, a hamstrung military presence, a militant environmental organisation and a greedy corporation determined to cover themselves. Once more caught in the crosshairs of dangerous people with sinister agendas, Butler is forced to bend all the rules to have a chance of surviving. But has Butler finally found a problem that even he cannot blow his way out of?
Colonyside is the latest awesome science fiction thriller from exciting author Michael Mammay. I am a major fan of Mammay, having deeply enjoyed his 2018 debut, Planetside, which followed Carl Butler as he attempted to find a missing soldier, only to find himself in the midst of an alien conspiracy. Planetside was an incredible novel with an impressively shocking and explosive ending, and it was not only one of my favourite books of 2018 but it is also one of my favourite debut novels of all time. Mammay followed this outstanding debut with a fantastic sequel in 2019 with Spaceside, which saw the protagonist get involved in another conspiracy, this one revolving around military contractors, which proved to be another amazing read and one of the best novels of 2019. Due to how much I enjoyed the first two Planetside novels, I have been looking forward to seeing how the series would continue in the future and I was extremely excited when I saw that the third novel, Colonyside, was coming out (especially as it had the cool cover above). My strong anticipation for this novel was not in vain, as Colonyside proved to be another exceptional read that gets a full five-star rating from me.
This outstanding novel contains an epic and addictive narrative that sets its unconventional protagonists on the path to uncover a massive and sinister conspiracy. Like the previous entries in this series, Mammay brings several genres together in this book, with Colonyside blending science fiction, military fiction and thriller elements into one fantastic story. This mixture of genres works extremely well together as the protagonist, a former soldier with a penchant for investigation, finds himself attempting to find the final fate of a missing person who disappeared from the jungle of an alien planet. This awesome premise leads into a clever and compelling narrative as the protagonist attempts to uncover and disrupt a massive conspiracy with galaxy-wide implications while also ensuring his own survival from a range of deadly opponents. Mammay comes up with a really impressive story here, and I loved all the complex twists and fantastic reveals throughout the novel as the protagonist builds up his case and then deals with the consequences of his discoveries. While I did find the start of the story a tad slow, it does not take long for the story to heat up and you find yourself getting more and more drawn into the compelling web of lies, intrigue, politics, and the occasional firefight. I particularly enjoyed the fantastic connections that Colonyside had to the previous entries in the series, as the motivations of the antagonists are directly tied into Butler’s prior actions and their dramatic consequences. While readers can easily start the Planetside series here with the third book, those readers familiar with Mammay’s prior two novels will really appreciate the way in which the story becomes linked, and I felt that it was a clever bit of storytelling. All of this leads up to an amazing and exciting conclusion that contains both an incredibly deadly scenario for the protagonists and a series of final reveals, many of which were very well set up and quite enjoyable to uncover. This makes for an impressive overall narrative that becomes very addictive as you just cannot wait to get to the bottom of the story.
One of the best things about Colonyside was the fact that it once again follows the adventures of the retired maverick solider, Colonel Carl Butler, who serves as the novel’s protagonist and point-of-view character. Butler is a clever, damaged and calculating military figure who knows that sometimes the only way to get things done is to break the rules and go off book, even if it costs him. This amazing character has gone through a lot of stuff over the course of the first two entries in the Planetside series, including nuking two separate alien planets. While he did have good reasons for his actions, Butler is now unsurprisingly an incredibly infamous figure in the galaxy, with a huge number of enemies across the political and social spectrum (it takes skill to be simultaneously hated by both environmentalists and big corporations). While he has committed some atrocities, Butler is still an incredibly likeable character, mainly because deep down he is a good person who is mainly trying to do the right thing, no matter the consequences. Butler proves to be a fun character to follow, especially as he as a very smart-assed way to him, producing a number of entertaining moments. The character is also a competent investigator and a surprisingly effective master manipulator, especially of military personal. I also quite liked the way in which the character has grown and evolved since the start of the series, and there are several examples throughout the book which show him learning from his mistakes in the earlier novels. He also has a much greater appreciation for all sorts of people and various forms of life within the universe, particularly after his experiences with sentient alien life forms, and these new insights have helped to turn him into a much more well-rounded protagonist. As a result, you really want for him to survive and succeed throughout the course of the novel, and your heart breaks a little each time he finds himself in danger or he is forced to compromise his morals for the greater good.
While there are a range of intriguing aspects to Butler’s character and portrayal, easily the most distinctive part of his inclusion in this novel is his unique narration. Butler provides a first-person narration for the entire novel, which results in the reader being privy to all his thoughts and feelings. While this may seem like typical first-person narration fare, it is actually pretty distinctive in Colonyside as Butler is constantly analysing everything that he says, does or hears and immediately relaying that back to the reader. This includes in some cases evaluating each sentence that another character utters, and then thinking hard about how he wants to respond before uttering his next bit of dialogue. While this way of writing the character’s thoughts and perceptions does take a little getting used to and may seem a little excessive at times, you soon grow to appreciate all the character’s valuable insights and opinions about the people he is dealing with. Not only is it refreshing to hear a protagonist admit when he is in the wrong or just being an arse (both of which happen frequently), but hearing his thoughts on the other characters and events occurring in front of him gives you additional insights into the complex investigation and makes the overall investigation even more intriguing. I also loved the way in which the protagonist plans out how he is going to manipulate or outmanoeuvre his various opponents throughout the novel, especially when he is talking to them, and it is entertaining to see his schemes unfold, whether they succeed or fail. All of this helps to turn Butler into a unique and enjoyable protagonist to follow and I cannot wait to see what happens to him in his next adventure.
Colonyside is also filled with a great range of side characters who add a lot to the story. The other three main characters are Butler’s team of Mac, Ganos and Captain Fader, all three of whom have some intriguing and enjoyable interactions with the protagonist. Mac, Butler’s personal bodyguard, who previously appeared in Planetside, is a solid and incredibly likeable non-commissioned soldier who loyally serves Butler and tries to keep him safe, even from his own stupid decisions. Despite being outranked by Butler, Mac does not take any crap from him, and the two characters have a fantastic and enjoyable bond throughout the book. The other recurring character is Ganos, the tough, anti-authoritarian hacker who helped Butler in Spaceside. Ganos starts the novel off having some major issues with Butler, especially after the fallout from their escapades in the second novel. This requires Butler to try and rebuild her trust in him throughout the novel, and their struggling friendship becomes a dramatic and enjoyable plot point throughout Colonyside. This team is joined by new member, Captain Fader, a by-the-book officer who has been assigned to Butler as his aid, while also being ordered to report on his actions. Fader, an extremely efficient, organised and bright individual, becomes a key part of the protagonist’s investigation, and she serves as a useful sounding board for Butler’s various theories about the disappearance and overarching conspiracy. The clash of styles between the two characters becomes an intriguing part of the novel, as Fader struggles to deal with Butler’s rule breaking. Nonetheless, Butler and Fader form a great mentor relationship throughout the course of the novel, and it was great to see the various ways in which Butler influenced the younger officer. Aside from these three excellent written comrades for Butler, Colonyside is also filled with a range of compelling side characters, including some figures from the previous novels, as well as the various inhabitants of the colony. Mammay does a great job introducing the fantastic range of extra characters featured in the book and many of them become key suspects in the novel’s overarching mystery. This complex collection of suspects adds some great layers to the main story, and it proved to be quite entertaining to see Butler attempt to interact with them to get his way.
The great story and fantastic characters are backed up by an outstanding and unique science fiction setting that serves as the perfect backdrop to this amazing novel. The settlement of Eccasis is large bio-dome surrounded by a planet of harsh and inhospitable jungle. The jungle is full of dangers, including dangerous megafauna, poisonous insects and all manner of bacteria that makes going outside without a suit an unbelievably bad idea. Naturally, the protagonist spends a great deal of time out in this hostile environment and there are some great scenes set out there. While the jungle is extremely dangerous in its own way, it turns out to be a cakewalk compared to the main setting inside the colony’s dome. The inhabitable interior of the Eccasis settlement is a political powder keg filled with all manner of competing interests: greedy corporations, a radical environmental group, a corrupt civilian government and an understaffed military attempting to keep the peace despite their lack of equipment and manpower. This diverse group of competing personalities helps to enhance the intriguing story and it proved to be very compelling to see the protagonist attempt to get to the bottom of their various motivations and agendas. It was also intriguing to see how Butler’s previous actions have impacted the overarching universe that the series is set in. After his prior adventures where he nuked two separate planets with the intention of killing aliens, a series of strict environmental laws have been passed, limiting expansion and corporate interest. This leads to a bunch of clever storylines within the novel, and I really enjoyed seeing some fallout from the events of the earlier books, especially because it has such a major impact on this third book’s plot. There is also a real anti-corporation theme to this novel, mainly because the protagonist is a lot more suspicious of corporate organisations after the events of Spaceside, and it will be interesting to see if this will be a recurring theme in future books. I had a lot of fun with this cool science fiction setting and I really enjoyed the way in which the author worked into the plot, helping to create an excellent story.
I ended up listening to the audiobook format of Colonyside, which proved to be an excellent and fantastic treat. This format of Colonyside has a reasonable run time of just over 10 hours, making it an easy audiobook to get through quickly, especially when you get caught up in its intrigue-laden story. I found that this epic novel flew by for me in this format and I felt that I absorbed a lot more about the setting and characters while listening to it. Probably the main reason that I liked this format was the fact that the audiobook is narrated by the very talented R. C. Bray, who previously narrated Planetside and Spaceside. Bray, who has an impressive selection of science fiction and thriller narrations to his resume, has an awesome, deep voice that perfectly fits the protagonist, Carl Butler. I really liked the authoritative and confident tone that Bray used for this central character, and the listener ended up with a fantastic sense of who Butler is and what his emotional state is throughout the audiobook. While I did occasionally find it hard to differentiate between the protagonist’s dialogue and inner thoughts in this format, this was a particularly minor issue and I still had an incredible time listening to this book and I would strongly recommend the audiobook version for anyone interested in checking out Colonyside.
Colonyside by Michael Mammay is an incredible and deeply captivating read that pits an outstanding and enjoyable protagonist on a high-stakes, mysterious adventure. This latest novel from Mammay is an amazing third entry in one of the best science fiction thriller series out there, and I love the clever and addictive plot contained within this book. A highly recommended read, I cannot wait to see how the next entry in this fantastic series turns out.