Review – Books I and II of the Aeneid Cycle by Michael G. Munz
A Shadow in the Flames (Book One of the Aeneid Cycle)
A Memory in the Black (Book Two of the Aeneid Cycle)
Set in the middle of the twenty-first century, Michael G. Munz has created in the Aeneid Cycle a future that draws both from the cyberpunk culture first elaborated by William Gibson, and the alien encounter plotlines of films such as Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey. At points, I could almost imagine the Blue Danube playing as a ship came into dock with Sunrise Station, as well as anticipating (wrongly) a hideous flesh eating alien stealthily picking each character off one by one.
The story itself follows two distinct plotlines through these first two books: that of Michael and his cybernetically enhanced, if mentally unstable mentor, Diomedes; and Marette, who has been placed in charge of a significant alien discovery on the Moon by the ESA. To complicate matters, there is a benign organisation, the Agents of Aeneas that has existed for centuries, taking a quiet hand in the affair. In truth, Marette is one of those self-same agents, as is Marc, a computer hacker of prodigious skills, who barely escapes with his life after a failed attempt to access the alien craft. It is here that the link between the two subplots begins, as Marc is sought out by Michael and Dio to assist them in chasing down a mysterious arsonist who destroyed Diomedes’ apartment.
With them comes Felix, a one-time Agent of Aeneas who is now freelance, and acts as an information gatherer and seller, together with Caitlin, a Welshwoman with a refreshing turn of phrase (It’s the first time I’ve seen crikey expressed by a character in a book, but an accurate reflection of the British manner of speaking), Felix’s partner in both a familial and professional aspect. In fact, I was more interested in the story behind Felix and Caitlin than that of Michael and Diomedes. Dio was, intentionally, cold and calculating, beset by demons brought on by his cybernetic enhancements, whereas Michael was often submissive and restrained in his presence. Munz portrays each relationship accurately and believable, but I felt it difficult to warm to either of these characters.
Both books are intricately built up, with a large cast, multiple locations both on Earth and the Moon, with a fleshed out world inhabited by cybernetic assassins, mysterious agents of Aeneas, underworld humans who believe they are vampires, and aliens. The characters are believable and distinct, which gives reality this future world. However, I often felt that the stories rushed from one action sequence to another; then too, the switch between the stories on Earth and on the Moon, whilst they helped to progress each plotline, made it difficult to keep each story in mind and be able to follow them with ease.
Munz has created a world that can only grow, as we find out more about the mysterious alien craft, and the machinations of the Agents of Aeneas, of which I would like to read more. For me, a more straightforward plotline and fewer subplots or story switches, would deliver a more powerful punch that would leave the reader reaching for the next book in the Cycle.
*** Three and a half stars