In my review of the first volume of Lawless I mentioned that it was a sort of sequel to another series, Insurrection. I also mentioned that I didn’t think you needed to have read Insurrection to enjoy Lawless. That was true of the first and second volumes. However, this third book has me eating my words.
I should have known, really. Dan Abnett is a legendary world builder and it was probably always likely that some of the history of Insurrection was going to seep into Lawless. What I wasn’t really expecting was that it might be key to the way this story plays out. I haven’t read Insurrection so got a bit lost here. From my perspective, as an under-informed reader, the conclusion of Metta Lawless’s fight against the corporate Munce army fell peculiarly flat. Even more surprising was that the conclusion came half way through this book, which then goes on to seemingly reset the series back to where it started. I have to admit to coming out of this book a little bewildered.
None of this should downplay the art of Phil Winslade, which rises to the occasion of Abnett’s all-out war and what comes after, with more of the wonderful monochromatic style and intense amount of detail that he delivered in the previous two books. There’s a genuine impression that he’s deliberately and skilfully pushing his boundaries, taking each chapter that little bit further than the one before.
There are sparkles of brilliant storytelling in this book but the story as a whole really didn’t do it for me. I was drawn into the first volume with the promise of a frontier western in a future setting, but the transition to a war story never sat quite right for me. Perhaps, if there are more Lawless stories on the way, the resetting of the ending might take us back in that promising direction. I hope so, because I’d dearly love to see more of Phil Winslade’s illustrations and read more of the wonderful Dan Abnett scripts we saw at the start of this series.