I first read this book, in paper format, almost 30 years ago and enjoyed it so much I subsequently bought and read all of the “ranked” sequels (The Captains, The Majors, The Colonels and The Generals). All were equally good and I was sorry to have completed the series.
While the characters in the book were well drawn and their life stories interesting, I asked myself why I was so taken with these books. Even 30 years after reading them I could remember events in the books and how the characters reacted to them, and it is unusual for me to remember specific characters and events in a light read 30 years after I finished reading a book. I finally decided that it was because WEB Griffin had developed such life-like characters with interesting backgrounds and presented the military environment in which the characters function completely accurately. I spent 3 tours of duty in the military before leaving to take advantage of the GI Bill to attend both undergraduate and graduate schools and the events taking place in the book, the military characters and their wives and the world in which they live felt as realistic to me as it was possible to be. Even the military orders and letters of commendation sounded completely authentic and I could see, in the characters the writer created, traits and reactions to events that paralleled those of career military people I knew well. Nothing in the books seemed artificial, inaccurate or unreal.
I bought the Audible book with some trepidation. I had some concern that if the book was not well narrated I would be terribly disappointed and, if the book was well-done, I would end up buying all 9 volumes in the series. Still, the draw was too strong and I fairly devoured this first book, largely unable to put it down until I had completed it. Everything was as I remembered (with one exception described below), Eric Dove’s narration was first class and I had a tear in my eyes when I reached the end of the book. And, as I feared, I ended up buying the remaining 8 volumes (during the Audible sale).
The one thing about the book that surprised me was the harsh language. These are soldiers and their manner of speech is representative of the way soldiers spoke, at least years ago, when this book is set. There is not too much of it and, while it did not offend me much (I have gotten more sensitive to it as I have gotten older), I did think I should mention it in case others might find it either annoying or truly offensive.
The characters, their lives and the events are all interesting and well presented. The world in which they live and function is both interesting and accurately presented. The writing is flawless. I feel able to highly recommend this book almost without reservation.
I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.
Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.
The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.
But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.
All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.
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