Overthrowing Heaven by Mark L. van Name (Jon & Lobo 3)

I guess I should be worried when an author keeps  writing longer and longer books. The first book One Jump Ahead published 2008 had 416 pages, the second book Slanted Jack came out later that year and had 480 pages and now Overthrowing Heaven is out and it has 560 pages. But I like it, keep going in that direction Mark. This time Jon a mercenary who talks to appliances and Jobo the witty assault vehicle take on a man that experiments on children. How was the book? Let me tell you …

Title: Overthrowing Heaven
Series: Jon & Lobo 3
Author: MarkL. van Name
Cover Art: Stephen Hickman
Genre: Space Opera | Military Science Fiction
Publisher: Baen 2009
Paperback: 560 pages
Excerpt: Chapter 1-16
Order from: Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

It began as a favor to a woman trying to get away from an abusive husband. Jon Moore grew up in a prison laboratory. When he escaped with nothing but his body’s nanotech enhancements and more anger than even a long lifetime could wash away, an entire planet died behind him. Memories of the things he’d done still haunted him; because of them, he often ended up helping those in need. His kindnesses frequently didn’t work out well. This one really didn’t work out well. It hurled Jon and Lobo, the intelligent assault vehicle and Jon’s only friend, down an accelerating, ever more dangerous spiral involving:

  • Private armies and government covert ops teams
  • A courtesan who always seems a step ahead of him
  • Rival superpowers that define Good in terms of their own advantage and Ethics as whatever doesn’t get in the way of their Good
  • And a brilliant, amoral scientist to whom human beings are just more experimental animals–and who might be Lobo’s creator.

Jon and Lobo take the reader on a headlong rush through armed enemies and untrustworthy allies and encounter what just might be the worst danger their partnership will face: the truth.


The book is dedicated to Allyn Vogel.

Jon is the only human who has survived nanotech enhancements and now he is making a living as an on and off bodyguard/mercenary while hiding his powers in fear of being returned to a lab again.

Lobo is an extremely intelligent assault shuttle he picked up as payment for a job (see One Jump Ahead) he/it is also quite witty and at times a bit condescending to his ‘owner’. Jon and Lobos good natured banter is one thing I enjoy in the series. It is in fact one of the things that can make or break a book for me. Give me snappy, funny, edgy, bitchy entertaining dialog any day and it is probably a book I am going to like.

About the Author

Mark is a relatively new author for me, I finished the first book in December 2009 and was hooked. As I understand it Mark used to be a stand-up comedian and it is easy to believe with the often snappy jokes and humor in the books. I must admit that my first reaction Mark L. Van Name was that this must be a pseudonum but I was wrong, see his homepage.

Mark L. Van Name, whom John Ringo has said is “going to be the guy to beat in the race to the top of SFdom,” has worked in the high-tech industry for over 30 years and today runs a technology assessment company in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. A former Executive for Ziff Davis Media and a national technology columnist he’s published over a thousand computer-related articles and multiple science fiction stories in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including the Year’s Best Science Fiction. Jon & Lobo stories have appeared in a Baen anthology and Jim Baen’s Universe.

World bulding

The world feels like The Stainless Steel Rat meets Dominic Flandry. There are two galactic empires/super powers looking to advance their own borders without starting a full scale war. Their officials reminds me of similar ones in Harry Harrison’s books.

The world building is not extensive, this is not a political book. What your protagonist see is what you get sums it up.


In concentration the plot is beautiful damsel in distress need transport off planet to escape abusive husband. Enter superpower space fleet that just wants to ‘chat’ or else. Amoral scientists backed by the government of Heaven experiments with nano technology on kidnapped children. Damsel is mother to one of them and the Super Power wants Jon to capture scientist to stand trial. Lobo asks Jon to take job so he can meet his maker, the aforementioned scientist.

Problem is that the scientist is turtled up in a fortress under a Mega Jurassic Park styled tourist attraction protected by the government, he has one weakness though, he sometimes visit a prominent but secretive escort girl in the city.

Most good books have some kind of mystery in them for the protagonist to overcome and here it is locating and capturing that scientist the main mystery but seeing Jon a man inexperienced in relationships trying to handle the ‘opportunities’ that presents themselves is a great amusement.

There is also a great deal of wonder in the amusement park with all their security systems but not least their attractions.


Jon and Lobo are both well developed. Child abuse and especially the experiments with nanotechnology is something directly from Jon’s past (he was himself the only surviving child from one such experiment) and his character’s raw emotions speaks well to the reader. We have a character in the beginning that doesn’t trust anyone and who have never contemplated a relationship. In the end he still doesn’t trust anyone but his relationship with Lobo has deepened and he has started to think about relationships.

The other characters are not so well developed and we never tap them for any inner dialog. The female cast was intriguing and created many tense and funny moments.

My View

I am trying to find flaws in the book but I cant find many. I checked out my sense of disbelief at the beginning and it held all the way. Some of the plot twists might be unlikely but in general it is one consistent tale. It is funny and there is a lot of friendly banter and some tricky personal situations to enjoy with the action. There might be less action and more preparation and ‘drama’ here than in previous books but it never felt tedious or boring. It gets a warm recommendation from me. Overthrowing Heaven was a fast and fun book to read and it touches on some serious issues around the ends justifying the means, child abuse and the meaning of friendship.