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The Bane of Yoto
Joshua Viola, Mario Acevedo, Nicholas Karpuk
This rip-roaring science-fantasy adventure, a polished saga of revolution and ancient god-like beings, returns in a striking new edition on the occasion a decade after its original publication, boasting a gallery of character portraits, a map worth lingering over, and the same classic oppressed-versus-powerful-overlords storytelling. The beaten-down numah toil in mines or fight in an arena on the moon Neos, “beneath the lash” of the olokun, brutal villains in living armor. The olokun fear the return of the ancient Arbitrators, beings of immense power whose arrival has been seen in a dream by “Lagaia, the witch from beyond the stars.” (If that phrasing grabs you, this book is for you.) The numah, meanwhile, plot a likely doomed rebellion, while young numah Eon (a tough fighter) and Yoto (the dreamer) ache for revenge against the olokun ruler Vega for the slaughter of their parents before their very eyes.

Gritty, vividly told, pulsing with a spirit of old-school adventure, Bane of Yoto is steeped in the history and present of its genre, drawing from the pulps, comic books, video games, and—in its seamless three-author approach—shared-universe collective storytelling. (The novel began life as a comic.) The tale turns on a dagger infused with the essence of the Arbitrators, a dagger Yoto sees in dreams. The story offers exciting jailbreaks, parasite gross-outs, creepy excursions deep into the moon’s core, and dialogue like “My life is a small price for keeping that dagger out of your profane claws.”

All this is delivered with welcome earnest confidence, as the authors resist the temptations to wink at their readers or to overcomplicate their characters. The villains are villains, full stop, and the heroes, though often preoccupied by vengeance, fight for freedom. Readers eager for moral ambiguity should look elsewhere, but adherents of Hyperborea, Gor, the Halo universe, or any other realms where the bottom line is adventure will feel like they’ve come home.

Takeaway: A striking new edition of a superior pure-pulp science fantasy adventure.

Great for fans of: Neal Asher, John Steakley.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A