Today I’m bringing you my review of the third installment to the Inventory series, Black Knight. Can I just say also that Andy Briggs has written such awesome books, I have absolutely devoured this series and I really hope you guys will want to check it out, and to those of you wanting to get your hands on this book I have this cheeky extract to tease you with- happy reading!
Dev and his friends are back with more mind-bending tech in this third installment of the Inventory series.
The World Consortium is recruiting more agents to defend the most advanced technology the world isn’t ready for, and it’s up to Dev, Lottie and Mase to train them up for action. But will they be ready before Shadow Helix’s next strike? And has Dev uncovered all the secrets of his past, or is there more to know about his special abilities?
“Land of The Giants
Entering the cavernous mouth of Black Knight finally gave Dev a real sense of scale. The closest he could compare it to was that Black Knight must be the size of an aircraft carrier. He couldn’t comprehend how the Victorians had got it up there.
The hangar he flew into housed winches the size of mansion houses, around which the three cables were strung. Like the inside of an old ship’s engine room, massive pistons towered from the floor and ceiling to power the winches. Metal gangways criss-crossed the edge of the hangar, so Dev made his way to one of these as he applied a little reverse thrust and killed his rockets. He slowed enough for the mech to engage its magnetic boots, anchoring him to the steel floor with a dull clang.
One curved wall was filled with a brightly painted Union Jack flag. Without air or pollutants, it was perfectly preserved. The wall behind him had “The Company of Merchant Adventurers” emblazoned across it, leaving no doubt as to who had built the structure. If Lee had made it this far then there was no sign of him. A hatchway at the far end of the hangar had the word airlock on a brass plate above it. Dev approached. His mag-boots made walking difficult. He was moving like a jerky, stop-motion animation puppet.
He opened the hatch by spinning a central wheel as he’d seen in submarine movies, and was forced to stoop low to fit the mech through. The airlock chamber beyond was quite small and illuminated by chemical strips that gave a pale green glow. There was enough room for three people – or one giant mech suit. There was another hatchway ahead. He closed and sealed the hatch behind him. The moment the locking wheel stopped turning, smoke began to jet into the room from a nozzle in the floor. Dev tensed, expecting a trap . . . but the smoke began to dissipate, and with it he heard a raspy klaxon slowly rise in volume, along with the hissing sound from the nozzle.
The smoke must be air, he thought, which was why he could now hear the sounds. The room was no longer a vacuum. The klaxon stopped making its irritating noise. There was a sound like hundreds of old typewriter keys snapping away, then the door leading onwards opened on its own.
Dev cautiously stepped into the corridor, which was similarly lit by the chemical strips in the floor and ceiling. He deactivated the mech’s helmet, which rolled away leaving him wearing just the suit. He breathed deeply. The air was crisp and cool, in fact he could see the vapour from his breath every time he exhaled. There was a stale smell, metallic and old. There was a blue line painted on the floor and Dev hoped that, like navigating the Inventory, it would take him to the control room. He passed through several more hatchways, the corridors all looking the same. The echoing clunk from his mag-boots echoed then fell eerily silent, reminding Dev that he was exploring a ghost ship. Dev pressed on until he reached a junction offering the usual choices – left, right, straight – but with the addition of up or down. The blue line continued upward, but there was no sign of a ladder to reach it. Dev was pondering if he should use the precious fuel in his jetpacks, before he slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand.
“Dev, you idiot!” he said aloud. It was comforting to hear a voice, even if it was his own. “Zero-G!”
He deactivated his mag-boots then jumped upwards. Out of the clutches of earth’s gravity he effortlessly soared straight up the corridor. It was a joyous feeling and he slowly barrel-rolled to enjoy the freedom of movement.
Ahead the corridor opened up into a wider space. Dev brushed his hand along the wall to slow himself down, and he gracefully emerged from the floor of the bridge beyond.
The bridge was the size of a football pitch. The entire ceiling was a geodesic mesh of brass panels holding a mosaic of glass window panes in place. The view beyond was simply stunning: the entire earth was laid out before him. He could see across oceans and continents and trace the space elevator cables stretching far below.
It took Dev a little mental orientation to work out Black Knight was pointing nose down and the bridge was mounted on the front top of the structure, just behind the hangar.
There were banks of desks, like a primitive mission control, all arcing around a huge engine the size of a lorry. Dev edged closer and was struck by two things at once: it wasn’t an engine; it was a computer of sorts. A mass of whirling gears, cogs, valves capable of quite advanced calculations – if a little slow. Dev had seen a Difference Engine before, designed by Charles Babbage in 1822 and publically hailed as the first computer, able to make simple calculations. Obviously the Antikythera Mechanism had proved that it wasn’t. Dev seemed to recall there had been a Difference Engine stored in the Inventory before the engineers moved it out of the way and installed a ping-pong table.
However, this machine went beyond a Difference Engine. The constant whirling arms and cogs made the same typewriter sound he’d heard in the airlock and he deduced that the whole ship was run by clockwork.
The second thing that struck him were the four people who sat unmoving at the control desks.
Dev activated his magnetic boots and walked in a wide semi-circle around the computer so he could get a better look at the men. They looked like waxworks, poised over the instruments, two were even frozen mid-conversation. Something had struck – killing then instantly. They wore smart navy blue uniforms that belonged in the pages of a history book.
Dev reasoned that Black Knight hadn’t been filled with air when he’d landed, so there had been no oxygen to rot the bodies . . . although now he suspected the stale whiff he had smelled was the air reacting to long dead flesh. He felt sick at the thought of it.
Fighting his revulsion, Dev edged closer to the instruments. There were no computer screens here, just a confusing array of dials and gauges. With no sign of Lee, all he had to do was shut Black Knight down – although that was easier said than done. While his synaesthesia would easily reset an electronic system, it was completely useless against an entirely mechanical one.
He looked around the bridge wondering where to start. And that’s when his head swam. He braced himself against a control panel and closed his eyes to fight the nausea.
“We can adjust the flow here!”
The voice came from right next to him. With a sharp inhalation, Dev opened his eyes, expecting to see a corpse talking to him. But it wasn’t – this was another of Professor Liu’s memories. Dev forced himself to be calm. The bridge looked pretty much the same, the corpses in front of him hadn’t changed, and whoever was talking was standing just beyond his field of vision.
He knew Liu had replied, but all he heard was an incomprehensible warble. Whatever was said got the other man angry.
“No! The graviton generator is ground-breaking! We need to emulate this. Think what we could do!”
Again Liu spoke. Dev attempted to see whom he was talking to, but his vision blurred and he felt dizzy. He had to remind himself this was a pre-recorded memory, not a virtual reality experience. If Liu hadn’t looked around, then Dev couldn’t either. He would just have to sit back and play the experience out.
He saw Liu’s hand slam irritably on the control panel as his gaze switched to another bank of instruments to which he was wildly gesticulating to. Dev could read the brass plaque on the desk.
EMP PULSE GENERATOR.
Again the unseen man spoke with increasing irritation. “They thought a high energy electromagnetic pulse would help them pinpoint precious metals on the surface. They were fools living in a clockwork era! Could you imagine what that would do to our world now? Look what it did to these idiots who were standing right over the EMP generator! Fried from the inside out! We must destroy this place.”
There was a garbled, angry response from Liu.
“Then take the graviton tech if you wish, but if we do not destroy this place others will find it, and who knows what they will use it for.”
Again, Dev couldn’t hear the response, but it was clearly an unhappy one.
After dealing with Liu’s Newton’s Arrow invention, Dev knew all about the effect gravitons had. No, he corrected himself, it wasn’t Liu’s invention – it was theft. This is where Liu took his technology from. He wondered just what else the old man had pilfered and claimed as his own.
The argument between the men continued – when Dev suddenly felt himself sway. He involuntarily fell face-first against the control desk and felt the switches and dials dig into his face.
He was now not only experiencing the memory of being attacked, but his body was re-enacting it! He “remembered” the pressure on his neck lessening as his assailant moved off him. He wondered who would assault Professor Liu – and was excited as he followed Professor Liu’s memories and turned around to face his attacker. . .
It was Professor Liu.
Dev reeled in confusion. Last time he had seen that face, it was that of an old man, but he’d looked up photographs on the Inventory’s database and seen Professor Liu’s younger handsome face.
Yet here he was, his face an unpleasant snarl as he glared at Dev. . .
In utter confusion, Dev found himself walking over to the huge panoramic window as he relived his mysterious host’s memory, and gazed at the earth beyond. It was there that Dev caught sight of his host’s reflection in the dark glass. Like most window reflections it wasn’t terribly clear, more of a ghostly hint . . . but he was instantly recognizable.
Dev hadn’t been reliving Professor Liu’s memories. They were the memories of a younger Klaus Tyker. The shock was so severe that it snapped Dev back to the present moment. He turned around – and saw a giant figure at the far side of the bridge had been watching him.
A Leap of Destiny
“Now, that was weird.” Lee’s voice came from inside the monstrosity standing across the bridge. “Watching you stand there freaking out all over the place some kind of drunk puppet. There is something seriously wrong with you, kid.”
Lee took a step closer, magnetic boots clunking heavily on the grated floor. Dev studied his opponent carefully. At first glance Lee’s suit resembled an oversized puffy white spacesuit, with the Union Jack on the sleeve. However, the helmet looked more like an old diver’s one. A large brass sphere with a circular glass face plate through which he could see Lee pulling a face at…”
I’ve been jumping at the chance to be back with Dev in the midst of his adventures.
In this third installment to the series we do see Dev developing amongst his work environment with his relationship with teammates, especially since The World Consortium (the people behind the Inventory’s tech) have hired new recruits for Dev, Lot and Mason to train up. I thought this was a great addition to the series to keep it fresh by introducing these new characters and how they interacted and adapted to their new work environment, and it was nice for them to even have their own chapters to introduce them properly. Riya definitely stuck out for me, gutsy and sleek martial arts skills- love it!
Leading on from this the action was a lot more intense, as the Inventory tech is used to go into space in search of The Black Knight- a forgotten weapon that could be disastrous. It had all the elements of suspense and a good pace that you need in a sci-fi series, and Briggs again knocked the nail on the head with this.
In addition, I have to confess I’m a sucker for a good villain and Lee was brilliantly complex and a believable character. He kind of reminded me of the master from Doctor Who haha, can’t think why but yes that stuck in my head.
I think Black Knight is my new favourite, the action, the new characters and the spectacular suspenseful plot had me gripping onto the book for dear life. If you haven’t read Andy Briggs before I can’t recommend this series enough!
Andy has extensive experience working on multinational co-productions and has worked in comics, books, TV, film and trans-media projects.
Andy wrote and Executive Produced Legendary, currently the most successful independent UK/Chinese co-production. Released in China and grossing $5 million in the first week, with a theatric US release in 2014. With his brother he worked on Hollywood features such as Judge Dredd and Freddy vs. Jason and TV shows for the SyFy Channel and Netflix.
He wrote and co-created Secret Agents, a trans-media interactive spy experience for children, currently on at the Discover Centre, Stratford. He has 16 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world.