Heritage: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Next up for the SPSFC semi-finalists, I will be taking a swing at a review for Heritage, Tales of the Phoenix Titan Book 1, by S.M. Warlow.

This was a big one! Well worth the effort though, as it has that solid massive-foundation feel that comes with a chonker of a story.

A faceless horrible alien menace destroys Earth, and a vast military coalition takes care of those left behind after arriving too late to save everyone (thus setting the scene for one of the more interesting reveals later in the story). Out of guilt for their failure to deliver the human race from the Revenant, the Commonwealth gives them a retirement planet where they can just live in Universal Basic Income paradise forever. Cue some hustle-culture “being given leisure to pursue one’s own life goals results in laziness and a lessening of productivity” bullplop that I’m really getting tired of seeing in speculative fiction (I don’t know about you, but having to sit in an office for 60% of my waking life is not doing wonders for my fucking spark, y’all), but to be fair, a lot of people in Space Florida do seem to be dipshits so fine, we’ll let it pass. The story isn’t really about that anyway, but there are numerous threads of sociocultural and political examination running through the book that I found very interesting, although frustrating at times. The lens of an ignorant character made it forgivable, and encouraged me to self-examine. A good book will do that, and this was a pretty damn good book.

Anyway, yeah. The Revenant is threatening the galaxy, and the Commonwealth is fighting the good fight against them and providing safety – at the cost of everyone’s distinctiveness. Except the Evokers, who get to keep their culture because they have fucking superpowers. Enter Nathan, a survivor of Earth, small-time thief and haunted-past-haver.

When Nathan is sent on a job into a Commonwealth ship, he doesn’t expect to come face to face with an Evoker. But he does, and he’s still in the middle of giving her a mild-to-moderate male gazing when the ship is attacked by the Revenant and he escapes and crash-lands on a planet with a Commonwealth dude in a pod. So begins their journey to return to safety, find out what Nathan was really meant to be doing, and reunite with the Evoker whose heritage is the key to busting this whole thing wide open.

I felt there was a lot of potential in the setup and background of the story, even though by about 10% in I was floundering a little. I have to admit I was a bit put off by some of the clumsy anti-communist propaganda disguised as libertarian “government oversight bad, cooperation means eradicated individuality and diversity” stuff – even though, I hasten to add, I feel it was entirely intentional and not meant as a targeted attack on any specific present-day politics, so much as a broadside against how every human ideology flourishes by demonising and misrepresenting its opposing viewpoints. So the Commonwealth and its lifelong-indoctrinated inhabitants have their view of outsiders, and other groups have their take on the ‘wealthers, and all in all I dig that sort of thing. And the story, while on the surface being an adventure-quest for ancient alien weapons and the answers to deep mysteries, was also a loving examination of human interaction and beliefs.

It was an ideal setup to show how war, the war machine and a civilisation built on perpetual conflict is what will rob people of their individuality and creativity (while at the same time spurring the greatest and most terrible of inventions), not peace and plenty. It may not quite have lived up to that setup in my view, but the spirit was there. I was impressed at the viewpoints offered by Harrt, as the Commie Commonwealth point-of-view among the Capitalist and Anarchist worlds.

Were there issues? Yes, there were issues. I’m pretty sure Warlow used “homunculus” instead of “homogenous” at one point, and I’m 100% sure he used “populous” instead of “populace”. He used “you’re” instead of “your” which was unfortunate, and … look, it’s a millennium or just millennia, “a millennia” isn’t a thing. Nathan’s cynisim and selfishness was extraordinarily grating. He had his backstory reasons for this, but man. Also, Seig was on the nose. Like, Ronan-the-Accuser on the nose. Harrt could not realistically have expected to intervene in a mob goon loan collection deal and actually save the guy without dismantling the whole gooning mobbing loaning sociocultural structure, and yet he did. This was almost certainly intended to show his selfless idealism but it really just kind of showed that he was a dumbarse.

In this vein, I had a few random notes to close out with before we get to the meters, and I will dump them here without particular structure or planning. Because all in all, this was a big story and there was a lot going on, so I can’t do much better than a series of on-the-spot observations and then an overall vibe.

  • We finally get our characters on board the Phoenix Titan, possibly the point of the story and certainly the unifying thread of the ongoing book series.
  • A hundred and fifty feet (the Phoenix Titan‘s length) isn’t that big? It’s like fifty metres. The Commonwealth wossname Nathan tried to rob at the start was a mile long. It feels like things would be crowded on a fifty-metre starship.
  • David Jareth better not look like Bowie (spoiler, he kind of did if you read between the lines).
  • How do trillions of people fit in a river? That’s actually kind of cool. I liked the Revenant’s general aesthetic and construction. Good villain.
  • The Revenant don’t have allies or associates, but like two of the king’s main dudes were collaborator turncoats from the start?
  • There was a lot going on here by the end, with the alien origin humans and all. Some very cool scenes, imagery and concepts. Loved the scope of it.

Alright, let’s move on to the metres.


We are given one (1) sex, it felt almost obligatory and didn’t really fit, for me. The love-interest protagonists had very little interaction in relation to the size of the book, and very little in the way of chemistry except they were both … hot and existed? We would have lost nothing if they hadn’t fucked. Just saying. A YouTube Kids out of a possible HBO Max for Heritage.


Gross mutant space zombie missionary paladins versus techno commie marines, with plenty of dismemberment and blasting. Not super gory, but not not gory, either. Three gobbets out of a possible five.


All the WTF was happening in this one. The WTF ran all the way from the macro of the mythos and ancient history of the galaxy, to the micro of why Guttasnype was not just called Guttersnipe. I mean come on, he’s clearly an alien, that arrangement of syllables has already broken my suspension of disbelief and left me Fred Flintstoning along with my exhaust system of disbelief dragging along the ground behind me. Just call him Guttersnipe. Also, since I didn’t have anywhere else to put it and it reached the level of WTF to me by the end, Nathan’s decision not to shoot certain characters right in the face – while it certainly spoke volumes about his humanity and decency – was just unfathomable. Heritage gets an Ancient Aliens conspiracy theory out of a possible Ancient Aliens conspiracy theory generated by an AI so all their hands are fucked up.

My Final Verdict

Three stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale, a solid seven out of ten. I enjoyed this one despite the occasional times I had to shout at my Kindle.


About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy. https://hatboy.blog/2013/12/17/metalude-who-are-creepy-and-hatboy/
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