Gretna, LA, USA | Member Since 2006
I fully expect to get mixed feelings on this review - It's more on a personal level of my preferences regarding good military scifi. And since it's my opinion, I'm okay with that. So, let's rev this up...
This is, if you will, a mixed bag of nuts. Various authors provide a scifi military short story to create an small omnibus, if you will.
I like these authors and their stories, but I'm not a fan of short stories. Yes, it's somewhat the rage in certain circles. It IS a bit trendy lately, with authors trying to write stories that comprise a page or two, or three or fifty, and say as much as they can in as little space as possible.
In my mind, that defeats the very idea of expression. You don't define a great work by it's page count - You define it by the richness, definition and completion of the effort.
Certain authors do this NATURALLY, because it's who they are and how they write. It's their very nature, and when it happens, it's a glorious thing.
Military science fiction, by its very nature, needs length to some degree, to ramp up the listener into the author's milieu and to suspend disbelief, which is always essential to good military scifi writing. If rushed via a short story, it will inevitably boil down to...
"X shoots lasers and missiles at Y, BANG!, Y shoots lasers and missiles back at X, POW!, a mysterious secret is revealed, a hero arises, and both allow either X or Y to win, or both to die."
You just can't pigeonhole quality military scifi into a short story without giving up something important.
I feel that the authors here all had good stories, but they should be presented as full stories, not short, whet your appetite novelettes. So many questions, so many holes. In fact, these stories are so short, that saying anything about them almost gives it story away in its entirety. I WILL say, hover, that Larson had, in my mind the better of their tiny stories, and that's not just because I like Larson - In this case, he did okay with the span in which he wrote.
Again, they're all interesting, but thin. And thin doesn't cut it for me.
So, while these are pigeonholed, they're good, but not great - They need larger real estate to thrive.
If you follow my reviews, you know that I like to roll the dice, to randomly buy a series on a whim, on the luck of the draw. Sometimes, it's a bust.
This time, it's a definite win, but if you go by how the series was created, you'd probably run in the opposite direction.
Here's one for the books: Jim Butcher is well-known for his "Dresden Files" series, created a fantastic fantasy series on a BET. Yep, a bet. Read on.
To quote the Codex Alera Wiki site, "the inspiration for the series came from a bet Jim was challenged to by a member of the Delray Online Writer’s Workshop. The challenger bet that Jim could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and Jim countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger’s choosing. The “lame” ideas given were “Lost Roman Legion", and “Pokémon”.
It DOES sound lame.
Well, Butcher makes it work. To the nines.
I've finished this first novel, and I'm enjoying this unique story line of humans with Roman similarities binding with elemental furies. Add unique races, backstabbing, politics, military battles, duels and an interwoven story line that pulls it all together, and you get a fantastic story that's simply put, a VERY VERY good listen.
The whole concept of fighting alongside elemental familiars used here is wonderfully executed. It's deep, well-thought magic-based partnership of man and magical creature is a pleasure to experience.
So, what about the writing?
Again, if you follow my reviews, you know that I love ENGAGING fantasy or scifi writing. Anything less won't do. And this is definitely engaging. There's great characters that plot, backstab, challenge, fight for their beliefs, devour their enemies, and celebrate their victories. You're taken on a great romp of a story, and in the end, isn't that what we all want in a good listen?
I know I do, and I so enjoyed this first audiobook in the series, that I bought the entire series. Yep. And I'm not disappointed with the decision.
Who knew that Lost Roman Legions and Pokemon could knock it out of the park?
Home run, Jim. Home run.
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