It???s been 1?? years since I read The Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay???s first novel and the first in his Fionavar Tapestry. I mentioned in the review for that book that I???m an adoring fan of Kay???s later stand-alone novels but that I found The Summer Tree derivative and heavy. I would have happily skipped its sequel, The Wandering Fire, but I had already purchased it at Audible, so I thought I???d give it a chance to win me over. Simon Vance, the narrator, is one of my favorites and his bad Canadian accents were toned down this time, which made him pleasant to listen to, as usual.
In this installment, the five college students are back home in Toronto after Kim whisked them out of Fionavar when she heard Jennifer being tortured after being raped by the dark lord, Rakoth Maugrim. Jennifer became pregnant and has refused to get rid of the baby. Will the son of the dark lord be evil? Are genes destiny, or might love overcome their effect? Meanwhile, the unnatural winter grinds on in Fionavar. The people are starving and the minions of the dark lord are attacking, so Kim goes to Stonehenge to summon Arthur Pendragon and takes him and the rest of the gang back to fight evil in Fionavar.
I felt pretty much the same way about The Wandering Fire as I did about The Summer Tree. Here we get to know our heroes a little better, but they still remain rather shallow even though we spend plenty of time viewing events from their perspectives and watching them act and speak with an abundance of emotion. The villains are similarly thin. The story advances, though not much has been accomplished by the end, and I had the familiar feeling that The Fionavar Tapestry could have been done in two books instead of three.
The story, though derivative (there are so many Tolkienesque elements here), is intriguing, but the addition of King Arthur (and the foreshadowed love triangle with Jennifer and Lancelot) is strange and seems out of place. There are bright patches of humor and wit, especially in the blossoming romance between Sharra and Diarmuid, which has been my favorite plotline in this series.
My main problem with The Fionavar Tapestry is that it???s so unrelievedly heavy and histrionic. The characters, even those from modern Toronto, express almost every thought in intense turgid prose. Everything that happens ??? every conversation, every fight, every sex scene, every meal ??? is treated as if it???s the climax of the story. It???s often beautiful, but frankly, it???s exhausting. This is an area where GGK has markedly improved over the years. His later novels are still full of passion, but in these earlier books, each character feels as if he???s likely to explode at any moment if the temperature in Fionavar ever gets above freezing.
Overall, then, The Wandering Fire is a rather conventional high fantasy that suffers from excess weight and pomposity, but it???s easy and exciting to see the early stages of Guy Gavriel Kay???s later greatness here. Fans who are interested in this author???s evolution will want to be familiar with The Fionavar Tapestry, especially since its mythology is alluded to in his later novels.
Originally posted at FanLit:
Zoe’s Tale, the fourth book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, is the same story we were told in book three, The Last Colony, except it’s from Zoe’s perspective. Zoe is the 17-year-old daughter of the traitorous scientist Charles Boutin. Jane Sagan and John Perry adopted Zoe when she was a small child and they’ve been farming on one of Earth’s colonies for years. Now, though, the family is off to lead the settlers of a new colony called Roanoke (uh-oh). When they get there they realize they’ve been duped and life on Roanoke has a lot more going on than just terraforming a new planet.
While I was reading The Last Colony there were several times I wondered “what’s Zoe doing?” or “what does Zoe think about this?” or even “is Zoe the sweet innocent teenager her parents think she is?” I guess John Scalzi knew I was wondering those things, because the sole purpose of Zoe’s Tale is to let us know what Zoe was doing and thinking all this time. Thus we hear the same plot again — there isn’t really any plot progression — but we do get to know Zoe and we get information about the events that only Zoe experienced in The Last Colony. Mostly these occur at the end of the story when Zoe has a major role in saving Roanoke colony.
I liked getting to know Zoe in this novel, but I found the lack of new plot to be disappointing. I also was not convinced by Scalzi’s characterization of Zoe, mainly because she and her teenage friends banter with each other as if John Scalzi was writing their dialogue. They’re just too clever to be believed.
My favorite characters in Zoe’s Tale were Hickory and Dickory, the aliens who revere Zoe’s father and act as Zoe’s bodyguards. Their lack of a sense of humor, literal interpretation of human speech, and deadpan delivery of their lines is charming. I listened to Tavia Gilbert’s narration and she does a wonderful job with them (and Zoe and the rest of the characters, too). Hickory and Dickory also supply some background information about one of the alien races that I hope we will see more of in a future installment.
If you’re not interested in a sometimes angsty teenage girl’s perspective of the events that occurred in The Last Colony, there’s no reason to read Zoe’s Tale. If you haven’t read The Last Colony you could read Zoe’s Tale instead — you’d be caught up with the story so far. I don’t know if Scalzi plans for Zoe to be protagonist in a future book. If she is, then I’ll be glad I read this story of her childhood and teenage years.
I’m giving Zoe’s Tale 3.5 stars for those who haven’t read The Last Colony. In that case it’s an enjoyable novel with a lot of plot and some great characters. If you have read The Last Colony, I’d give this book a 3 star rating. It’s just not enough new plot.
Originally posted at FanLit:
In the second BEYONDERS book, Seeds of Rebellion, Jason has made it back to his own world after attempting to destroy the emperor Maldor in Lyrian, the parallel universe he accidentally stumbled into after being swallowed by a hippopotamus at the zoo. Jason is unhappy at home because Rachel is still stuck in Lyrian and being hunted by the bad guys. After doing some research on the internet, he discovers that Rachel’s parents are desperately trying to find her, but Jason feels like he can’t contact them or he’ll be a suspect in the crime. He’s afraid to tell anyone about Lyrian — people will just think he’s crazy and he might be institutionalized. That would make it impossible for him to do what he really wants to do — go back to Lyrian, let everyone know that the quest they were on is doomed, and tell Rachel how to get back to her parents. Meanwhile, he spends plenty of time exercising so that when he does get back, he’ll be fit enough to face all the trials he knows are coming.
Eventually Jason does manage to return to Lyrian with the important news. Then he and Rachel help to muster up a small force that is willing to risk rebelling against the emperor. There’s only a slight chance that they can succeed, but they have to take that chance. There’s no way that Maldor is going to let Jason and Rachel get back home, and the people of Lyrian have lived too long under a tyrant’s rule.
This time Jason meets some more of the weird mage-crafted races of Lyrian including a race of dwarves who turn into giants when the sun goes down. He explores secret tunnels, hears prophecies, loses his first sword fight, collects explosives, learns a lot about the history of Lyrian, eats some magic mushrooms, meets a beautiful princess, fights zombies, grows moss on his neck, and travels some harsh exotic terrain. Meanwhile, Rachel is beginning to acquire some magical talents of her own.
I mentioned in my review of the first BEYONDERS book, A World Without Heroes, that I appreciated Brandon Mull’s subtle messages for children. He again does a good job with this, showing us, for example, the consequences of addiction; the necessity of being wary of someone who you know has betrayed others and being careful about who you can trust; the benefits of working as a team and being reliable when it comes to doing your part.
I particularly like how Mull’s child heroes aren’t doing everything themselves. They’re working as small but significant parts of a team that is mostly adults. They ask smart questions, anticipate future problems, and contribute meaningfully while respecting the skills and wisdom of their adult companions.
Some of the plot of Seeds of Rebellion drags (there’s a lot of travelling) but young readers who enjoy spending time with Jason and Rachel probably won’t notice and will be anxious to move on to book 3, Chasing the Prophecy. This is a solid addition to the BEYONDERS series. I recommend the audio version narrated by Jeremy Bobb.
Originally posted at FanLit.
The Ghost Brigades is the second novel in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR saga. It focuses on the Ghost Brigades — the Special Forces soldiers that the Colonial Union (CU) creates by genetic engineering and who have special powers because of the BrainPal computers in their heads. They’re born in adult bodies and are rapidly assimilated into the Special Forces, though they are a little immature because of their mental age and they lack some of the personality and social skills that come from interaction with “real-born” people in a normal environment. The Ghost Brigades give the regular CU soldiers the heebee-jeebees.
In this story the Colonial Union has discovered the existence of a traitorous scientist, Charles Boutin, who has faked his death by cloning himself and has aligned himself with three alien species who plan to wipe out the humans. Part of his motivation is that he blames the CU for the death of his daughter Zoe who was on a planet the CU blew up. Boutin is helping the aliens by giving them information about Special Forces’ BrainPals. This will allow them to have such technology themselves and perhaps find a way to hack into the BrainPals of the Special Forces soldiers.
This is not good; Boutin must be stopped. When Special Forces discover a source for Boutin’s DNA and his consciousness which he uploaded for safe keeping, they decide to clone him so they can have a soldier who may have Boutin’s memory and who may think like Boutin. (They realize that this could go badly awry.) And so they create Jared Dirac and it’s up to Jared to stop his “father.” Commander Jane Sagan (who we remember from Old Man’s War), is skeptical and worried that instead of catching a traitor, they may be creating another one.
The Ghost Brigades is an exciting story with lots of action, cool ideas, and some of John Scalzi’s humor (but not as much as in Old Man’s War). Scalzi takes the opportunity to make us think about nature vs. nurture, free will, the role of the environment on personality formation, the ethics of cloning, the role of consciousness in the arts, and the relationship between brain, mind and soul.
Scalzi also decides to throw some mud in the water. At this point in the OLD MAN’S WAR story, it’s becoming clear that war is a murky business. Are we supposed to be rooting for the Colonial Union? They’ve got some seriously questionable ethics and our villain is somewhat sympathetic. Has Earth been mistreating her soldiers and/or holding back human technological development? I look forward to learning more in the next book, The Last Colony and its companion, Zoe’s Tale.
I’m reading the audio version of OLD MAN’S WAR which is mostly narrated by William Dufris who, as usual, gives a stellar performance. I recommend this series on audio.
Originally posted at FanLit:
Hex and the City is the fourth novel in Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE series. I’ve been listening to NIGHTSIDE on audio lately because I’ve been doing a lot of home improvements, especially painting, and NIGHTSIDE is such an easy read that I don’t ever have to stop and rewind, which is something you don’t want to do when you’ve got paint all over your hands. Audio readers know what I mean.
In Hex and the City, John Taylor is moving on to his next case in the seedy and decadent Nightside where it’s always 3 AM. This time Lady Luck has hired him to discover the origins of the Nightside, something Taylor wanted to do anyway. During his investigation he meets some people/creatures who were fundamentally involved in the establishment of the Nightside. He begins to confirm his suspicion that his own mother, whom he doesn’t even remember, is someone rather important. He’s not sure what she is or what it means for his own status in the Nightside, but the more he learns, the more nervous he gets.
The NIGHTSIDE books are quick, easy, and fun reads. Their strength is Green’s setting: the Nightside is bursting with flavor. It’s the kind of place you wish you could view in person — through three feet of warded Kevlar-enhanced plexiglass. Life is both dark and colorful in the Nightside, and it’s brutal, too. Simon populates the Nightside with some crazy characters (many of whom you’ve seen before, but not necessarily all together in one city). Each installment introduces a couple more of them and also lets us spend time with some of our old favorites. In Hex and the City we meet a succubus named Pretty Poison who falls in love with Sinner, the man who sold his soul for true love. Then there’s Madman, who was sane until he got a glimpse of what lies behind “reality,” and the Lamentation who is the God of Suicides. We didn’t get to see Razor Eddie, Dead Boy, or Shotgun Suzie in Hex and the City, but I feel certain that they’ll show up in a future installment.
After reading four NIGHTSIDE novels back to back, it’s obvious how repetitive the narrative and dialogue are. Green often uses the same words and phrases over and over. For someone who read the books as they came out originally, this may not be quite as noticeable, but even in the same book Green tends to use the same phrases repetitively. Of course this isn’t a series I’m reading for its “literary merit” but it’s also one of the reasons I can’t give it a higher rating. Another reason is Green’s tendency to put John in a situation that we’re told is absolutely hopeless and then to create a deux ex machina (usually in the form of one of his friend’s, or his own, heretofore unknown superpowers) to suddenly obliterate the unstoppable foe. Characters, places, and situations in the Nightside seem to constantly trump each other with their own outrageousness, making everything a bit over the top. Still, I’m looking forward to learning, along with John Taylor, more about the Nightside, his mother, and his own destiny.
I’m listening to Marc Vietor read the audiobook version, which was produced by Audible Frontiers. Vietor does a great job with all the characters. I like the audio so much that I’ve purchased the rest of the series at Audible.
Originally published at FanLit.
The Last Colony, the third book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, returns us to the perspective of John Perry, the “old man” hero of the first novel in the series, Old Man’s War. John Perry is only mentioned in the second novel, The Ghost Brigades, which told the story of how the cyborg Special Forces soldiers found and defeated the scientist Charles Boutin, a traitor to the Colonial Union. On that mission they also found Zoe, Boutin’s young daughter. Zoe has been adopted by Jane Sagan and John Perry and the little family has been farming on one of Earth’s colonies where John and Jane are the leaders.
Life is easy for them until the Colonial Union comes calling — they need leaders for a new colonization effort and John and Jane have been selected. This new colony (named Roanoke…. hmmmm… I think I wouldn’t have signed up for that) will be comprised of people from several different human worlds and John and Jane are responsible for its success. However, the Colonial Union hasn’t been completely honest with them. It will be a lot more dangerous than the members of Roanoke have been led to believe. They are being played as political pawns and they don’t realize it until it’s too late. And it’s not just Roanoke that’s in danger, but the entire human race.
The Last Colony (I keep wanting to write “The Lost Colony”) has a different tone than Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades. It takes place mainly on a planet, rather than in space, and deals mostly with domestic and political matters rather than space battles and espionage. Some of the political dialogue between characters we don’t know is dull, especially if you’re hoping for lasers and explosions, but Scalzi continues to explore the interesting theme of access to information and the problems that occur when the government controls the press. When and how should governments control information? That’s always a relevant topic, isn’t it?
Like its predecessors, The Last Colony features John Scalzi’s engaging writing style and ultra-competent well-developed characters. Some of these are characters we already know and love (John and Jane) one is a character we are happy we’re getting to know (Zoe) and some are new characters that Scalzi makes it easy for us to love (e.g., the Mennonite leader, Hickory and Dickory) or hate (e.g., the journalists). And some are there to show us that our first impressions aren’t always correct.
I mentioned in my review of The Ghost Brigades that the political situation was getting murky and it gets even murkier here. It is not clear to us (or to many of the characters) whose side we should be on. Readers may find it discomfiting to realize they are having trouble sympathizing with their home planet. It may be even more discomfiting to realize that Scalzi’s story doesn’t have to stretch the imagination too far. Sometimes “human nature” is not a pretty thing, but it’s what we know. What if someday we find ourselves needing to interact with beings who have a non-human nature?
You can probably read The Last Colony without having read the previous books, Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, but you’ll have some catching up to do. It would be better to wait on this one until you’ve read its predecessors. They’re both great books, anyway. The fourth book in the OLD MAN’S WAR series is Zoe’s Tale which tells the story of Roanoke colony from Zoe’s perspective. It’s mostly the exact same plot as The Last Colony with a few side adventures for Zoe. If you’re only interested in the plot progression, you can skip Zoe’s Tale. If you’re interested in getting to know Zoe, you should read it.
I’m listening to William Dufris narrate OLD MAN’S WAR. I think he’s amazing. Macmillan Audio produced this installment.
Originally posted at FanLit.
In Courageous, the third book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series, the Alliance fleet is still wandering from star system to star system, trying to get back home by some path the Syndics won’t predict. It seems like a hopeless situation, but the legendary Black Jack Geary, who’s been revived out of cold sleep after his suicidal mission 100 years ago, is just the hero they need. He’s proved himself so capable so far that some of his commanders want to help him secure a dictatorship when they get home, and others just want to get rid of him. Geary could decide to be a dictator, get rid of the people who are causing him problems and do things the way he thinks they should be done, but then how is he different from their enemies?
Geary isn’t as confident in his own abilities, however. He’s still uncomfortable in this new military where the pursuit of self-glory is tolerated and the best commanders are put on the ships most likely to be destroyed. No wonder discipline is shattered and the war has been going on for so long. Geary is starting to understand how the Alliance fleet got this way. He’s also learning more about their enemies — the Syndics — and the possibility that an unknown alien race may be manipulating both the Alliance and the Syndics. A scary thought.
Meanwhile Geary’s lover, Victoria Rione, who used to be reserved, reasonable, and icy, has turned into a fickle drama queen. This subplot is tedious and exasperating and it feels contrived to elevate the tension. It’s clear that Campbell is setting things up for a romantic change of venue for Black Jack, though our hero isn’t aware of it yet. After listening to Victoria rant and rave for so long, readers will be eager for a change.
I love the hero of the LOST FLEET series — Captain Geary is awesome and Campbell has done a great job with his development over the series so far. Geary is what keeps me reading LOST FLEET because I don’t much like anyone else in the book, or at least I don’t know them well enough to like them.
At this point, though, I’m starting to wonder why the series needs six books. It could have been cut in half. The truth is that even though I like hanging out with Black Jack Geary, not much new happens in Courageous. They’re wandering around at the beginning and they’re still wandering around at the end. In the last chapter of Courageous, Geary and Victoria make some really wild speculations about what might be happening with the alleged alien race and though I thought it was far-fetched that they would jump to those conclusions, I want to know what happens. Campbell leaves us with a cliffhanger that made me glad I’d already downloaded the next book, Valiant.
Originally posted at FanLit.
Professor Kyle Riggs and his kids were asleep in their house when the alien spaceship arrived. It killed the kids, kidnapped Kyle, and put him through a series of grueling tests. Since he was still alive afterward, the ship made Kyle the captain. This has been happening all over Earth. Most of the captured humans have been killed because they couldn’t make it through the rigorous tests, but all the survivors are now piloting spaceships and in the perfect position to fight off an alien invasion that’s coming to enslave humanity. Add in a beautiful naked coed who’s chained up inside Kyle’s spaceship and you have a silly, but exciting, male wish-fulfillment fantasy.
I want to admit straight up that even though I’m giving Swarm only two stars (it’s just not a very good book), it entertained me. I think many readers will love Swarm — those who just want a fast-moving exhilarating ride and don’t care too much about plot, characterization, and craft. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something like that and Swarm will do quite nicely in that circumstance. However, I want to critique Swarm by its merits, and not by my mood.
The plot of Swarm is instantly engaging. Professor Riggs’ kids are snatched by a spaceship, disemboweled, and dropped to the ground. Wow. That kind of gets your attention. Then Kyle finds himself captain of an amazing piece of technology which belongs to an alien race. Until now, humans thought they were alone in the universe. Now they’re fighting a second alien race with help from these aliens who’ve given them ships but have also killed thousands of humans while vetting them for command positions. This diverse set of ship captains must figure out how to fly their ships and work together to save Earth. Crazy.
This is a pretty cool setup, but unfortunately there were so many places where I just couldn’t suspend disbelief due to ridiculous plot elements and bad characterization. There are many examples I could give, but I’ll just mention two. The first is the ineffective way the Earth governments respond to the spaceships. Kyle and the other captains roam around Earth for a while before getting organized. They hover over homes and malls and grocery stores, using the ship to steal items they need to outfit their ships. (The way they do this reminded me of the “claw” type arcade games and that funny scene in Toy Story: “The Claw!”). A ship captain from Australia is declaring himself leader and threatening Kyle and others who won’t follow him. Kyle, a college professor who has just seen his ship kill his own kids, goes off on his looting spree instead of immediately going to the police or other authorities to report what’s happening. Earth’s authorities, who have no idea what’s going on, seem paralyzed — they just wait to see what will happen. Even though they have satellite communications and internet, it takes a long time before the ship commanders and the authorities are communicating with each other. Even then the ragtag team of pilots decide to band together to save Earth rather than handing over the ships to legitimate military forces. And the governments let this happen. It’s exciting, but not at all likely.
Second is the preposterous relationship with the college student. Kyle, a widower, has just seen his kids brutally murdered, but he gets over this fast enough when the naked girl shows up. Sure, he talks like he’s grieving, just to remind us that Larson knows we’re going to have an issue with this, but he doesn’t act like he’s grieving when he’s ogling the girl and talking more about her nakedness than he did about his kids. Pretty soon he’s in bed with the girl (she has no personality, but she is naked) and the kids seem forgotten. Larson would have done better to bring her in during book 2 instead (Swarm is the first in a series of at least seven books). And maybe give her some more features in addition to nakedness. I mean, she is a college student — she should have more features.
I could go on, but I think those two examples get the point across. If you’re looking for a shallow but thrilling ride that’s fairly unique and you don’t have high expectations about craft, Swarm may be just what you’re looking for. I recommend the audio version narrated by Mark Boyett. I didn’t like his voice for the naked chick, but he did well with the rest of it.
B.V. Larson is an independent author who self-published Swarm. The audio version was produced by Audible Frontiers in 2011 and has been put on CD by Brilliance Audio.
Originally posted at FanLit.
Fearless is the second book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series about Captain Jack Geary who has recovered from 100 years of cold sleep just in time to try to save the Alliance fleet from certain annihilation by the Syndics. As I explained in my review of the first LOST FLEET book, Dauntless, many soldiers in the Alliance fleet think Black Jack Geary is a hero returned from the dead to save their skins. To them, Geary can do no wrong, and they’re willing to follow him deeper into Syndic space as he tries to find an unguarded pathway home. Other officers, however, resent Geary’s attempt to instill order on a military that has become unprepared and undisciplined over many years of war. These aggressive glory-seekers are causing a lot of trouble and when they find someone to rally around, Captain Geary has a mutiny on his hands.
But that’s not all he’s dealing with. There’s an underlying problem that affects everything he’s trying to do — the soldiers of the Alliance used to fight with honor, but now they have become just as ignoble as the Syndics. They wipe out civilians and non-military targets, use terror tactics to dishearten their foes, and generally revel in the slaughter of their enemies. Geary realizes that with this sort of attitude, there will never be peace. At first his only like-minded ally is Senator Victoria Rione who is traveling with Geary and the crew of Dauntless. She’s a politician, so none of the military folks trust her, but she is a much-needed voice for restraint. That’s why Geary can trust her with his provocative suspicions that there may be outside forces malevolently influencing the Alliance-Syndicate war, and with his discovery about the powers that can be unleashed when a hypernet gate implodes.
Geary has some relationship issues as well. Since he’s been asleep for 100 years, he has lost everyone he ever loved. He’s depressed about this, though he doesn’t have much time to think about it. He worries about going “home” and wonders if he can find a way to fit into society other than just as a fleet commander. In this installment, Geary begins a romantic relationship that is only partly rewarding and may or may not be significant when he finally gets home.
Fearless is another entertaining installment in the LOST FLEET series. Some of Jack Campbell’s characters are a bit two-dimensional, and one of them (Captain Falco) is totally over-the-top, but Captain Geary is an admirable character who’s easy to root for. Some of Geary’s personnel problems — especially those involving the mutinous officers and his new lover — seem contrived to elevate emotions, but Geary’s plight is compelling enough to make me feel rather forgiving. Campbell’s space battles are awesome, which is surprising since there’s actually more waiting around and getting in position than actually shooting at things.
Christian Rummel does a great job with the narration of the audio version I’ve been listening to. I think he has a lot to do with how much I like Black Jack Geary. I’ve already downloaded the third LOST FLEET book, Courageous.
Originally posted at FanLit.
John “Black Jack” Geary’s escape pod has just been rescued from deep space. He’s been in cold-sleep for a century after he single-handedly held off enemy spaceships while letting the rest of the Alliance fleet escape. Everyone thought he was dead, but his brave sacrifice went down in the history books and many people still whisper that Black Jack Geary will come back to save the Alliance in a time of great need. And so he has… or at least that’s what many soldiers of the Alliance believe. Geary himself is bewildered to learn that not only is he alive, but that his one famous deed was exaggerated and now he’s a hero of legend. All he really feels like doing is grieving over the loved ones he left behind a century ago. But duty calls.
Now Geary finds himself again trying to save the Alliance fleet. They’re still fighting the Syndicate Worlds — the same enemies they’ve been fighting since Geary’s time — and they’re stuck in enemy territory with damaged ships. They’re also carrying a stolen key to one of the Syndics’ hypernets — a tool which could help them finally win the war. Can Geary get the fleet and the key back home safely?
Well, that’s a hard enough task for any fleet commander. What makes it even harder for John Geary is that this modern Alliance fleet is far different from the one he knew before. The technology has advanced enormously (Geary doesn’t even know what a hypernet is!), but what has changed even more is the structure of the military. Geary lived in a time when the military was well-trained and the leaders gave orders which their subordinates obeyed. But because of the devastating losses the Alliance has suffered over the past several decades, younger commanders have had to step up. They lack skills and experience and the military is now run more like a democracy than a hierarchy, with commanders discussing and voting during meetings instead of receiving and following orders from superiors. Black Jack Geary’s own legendary exploit is also a factor in this decline — his heroic status has caused many ship commanders to try to seek their own glory. Geary recognizes that all of this is bad for the Alliance Worlds, but changing an entire military organization may be too much for one man. Unless that man is a legendary hero who has returned to set his people free…
Dauntless, the first book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series is highly entertaining space opera. Black Jack Geary makes a great reluctant hero. He’s smart and experienced, but 100 years behind in his understanding of technology. He has a disadvantage when he has to rely on others to help him understand and navigate his controls, but his old battle tactics, which rely on careful fleet coordination rather than personal glory-seeking, are an advantage. Not only are they better for the fleet as a whole, but they confound the enemy who is now unable to predict what the Alliance forces will do.
I didn’t much care for the other characters in Dauntless, but I enjoyed the story enough that I didn’t mind. One thing that sets this series apart from other space opera is Campbell’s attempt to deal with the problem of relativity in a war that spans so much space. For example, if your computer is reporting the location of an enemy that’s lightminutes away from you, they are no longer in that location when you get the report. This distortion has a lot of implications, especially when you’re trying to shoot the enemy and the enemy is trying to shoot you. Campbell’s constant reminders about this get tedious, but I appreciated that he tried to deal with this problem that’s too often ignored.
I listened to Audible Frontier’s production of Dauntless. Christian Rummel was a perfect narrator and I thought the voice and tone he used for Black Jack was a perfect reflection of Geary’s humble but confident personality. After listening to Dauntless, I immediately downloaded book 2, Fearless. THE LOST FLEET looks like it’s going to be a good series.
Jack Campbell is a pseudonym for author John G. Hemry who writes other military science fiction under his real name. He’s a retired Navy officer.
Originally posted at FanLit.
Almost all the modern stories derived from Arthurian legends focus on King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain, and Merlin. Why does Mordred, the man who eventually brings down the whole shebang, get such short shrift? There’s plenty of source material, most notably Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. Maybe it’s that Mordred isn’t very romantic. Or maybe we just don’t like reading about people who are hard to root for.
In her novel I Am Mordred, Nancy Springer flips the legend, brings the traitorous Mordred to tragic life, and makes him easy to sympathize with. When we meet Mordred he’s a happy child being raised in a loving home by hard-working fisherfolk. His life changes when he’s discovered and taken away. Now he lives with a cold mother, a heavy burden (Merlin has publicly prophesied that Mordred will kill King Arthur) and a huge helping of guilt (King Arthur killed all the babies in the realm when he found out about Mordred’s birth).
But Mordred doesn’t want to kill anybody. He’s a sensitive child who just wants to be loved and accepted by his scheming mother and the kind father who refuses to acknowledge him as son. Can Mordred find love? Can he defy his fate, or is he destined to fulfill it?
I Am Mordred is a short sad novel with a sympathetic anti-hero. Nancy Springer’s prose is pretty and she brings a little piece of Arthurian Legend to life as Mordred gives his candid impressions of Arthur, Morgause, Morgan Le Fay, and others. In addition Springer explores such subjects as the nature of family, love, loneliness, original sin, self-determinism, fate and free will, honor, shame and guilt, and the function of the soul.
I Am Mordred is marketed to children aged 10 and up. As far as children’s literature goes, the tale is rather somber and dark, dealing with incest, adultery, murder, and death, but it’s tastefully done and none of it is graphic or glorifying. Nancy Springer succeeds in illustrating the lesson that we should always try to look at events from other people’s perspectives. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend I Am Mordred to children, but keep in mind that it’s dark and sad. Springer doesn’t change the legendary ending.
I listened to Steven Crossley narrate Recorded Book’s version of I Am Mordred. I enjoyed this production.
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