The Noise Within by Ian Whates

On the brink of perfecting the long sought-after human/AI interface, Philip Kaufman finds his world thrown into turmoil as a scandal from the past returns to haunt him and dangerous information falls into his hands. Pursued by assassins and attacked in his own home, he flees.

Leyton, a government black-ops specialist, is diverted from his usual duties to hunt down the elusive pirate vessel The Noise Within, wondering all the while why this particular freebooter is considered so important.

Two lives collide in this stunning space-opera from novelist Ian Whates!

the-noise-withinTo me, Ian Whates is perhaps best known for running Newcon Press, a small publisher that has released some excellent novellas and collections. When I first found out that he was entering the novel writing game I was very eager to see what he’d produce. While The Noise Within isn’t his debut (it loses out only by a couple of months to City of Dreams and Nightmare), it is my sort of book – space opera. The synopsis is fairly short, but it did get me wondering what it held in store and I marked it firmly as a must read book for this year. I wasn’t disappointed either, Whates manages to write such a story that fans of Hamilton, Asher and Morgan would be more than happy to read.

The Noise Within starts off with an excellent action sequence and introduces Leyton, a ULAW (United League of Allied Worlds) operative on a mission to break into a a supposedly secure base to try and steal information. There has been pirate activity by a ship known as The Noise Within, but ULAW is unable to track it and find out who it is working for, hoping that this time they’ll get a break. Philip Kaufman is the son of Malcolm, the inventor of the Kaufman drives that enable interstellar travel, and as such is in his shadow. However, details of The Noise Within make its way to him and he stumbles across a startling discovery – could it be that the ship is in fact the Sun Seeker, an AI ship he helped design and that went missing when it turned on its crew many years ago?

Suffice to say that Ian Whates packs in a lot of action and story into this novel, from the black ops missions to space fights, each is securely rooted in the genre and will make any fan smile. What I found most pleasing about The Noise Within is that Ian Whates is just so capable at telling a compelling story, from well drawn out characters like Leyton and Philip Kaufman, and is able to include some interesting and well plotted details.

I particularly enjoyed reading Philip Kaufman and his interactions with his semi-AI father, essentially a downloaded personality. There is obvious hostility between the two, but there is also a deeper relationship there and one that is explored throughout the novel. Leyton comes across first as a typical special ops character, but the more time we spend with him the more there is to him, it’s like peeling back an onion to find more and more layers.

The story is definitely the main plus point here – it’s concise, well structured and told with flair. While this could easily have been a book with double the page count, Whates is able to easily focus the events and get all relevant information across without bogging the story down in unneeded detail and worldbuilding. Speaking of which, the worldbuilding here is rather good indeed, but I suspect that the setting will come into its own once the sequel comes out next year.

The sequel, The Noise Revealed, is definitely a book on my must-read list for next year. The ending here opens up so many questions and throws this series into the realm of some of the best space opera available today. I’d recommend this in a heartbeat to any fan of the genre, but also to anyone that wants to read a fast paced story written with style. It’s a page turner for sure!

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