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Fleet of Knives: An Embers of War Novel  By  cover art

Fleet of Knives: An Embers of War Novel

By: Gareth L. Powell
Narrated by: Nicol Zanzarella,Amy Landon,Soneela Nankani,Natasha Soudek,Joe Hempel
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Publisher's summary

From award-winning author Gareth L. Powell comes the second book in the critically acclaimed Embers of War space opera series.

The former warship Trouble Dog and her crew of misfits is called upon by the House of Reclamation to investigate a distress call from the human starship the Lucy's Ghost. Her crew abandon their crippled ship and seek refuge aboard an abandoned, slower-than-light generation ship launched 10,000 years before by an alien race. However, the enormous ship contains deadly secrets of its own. 

Recovered war criminal Ona Sudak faces a firing squad for her actions in the Archipelago War. But, at the last moment, she is smuggled out of her high-security prison. The Marble Armada has called for her to accompany its ships as observer and liaison as it spreads itself across the human Generality, enforcing the peace at all costs. The alien ships will not tolerate resistance, and all dissenters are met with overwhelming and implacable force. Then her vessel intercepts messages from the House of Reclamation and decides the Trouble Dog has a capacity for violence which cannot be allowed to endure.

As the Trouble Dog and her crew fight to save the crew of the Lucy's Ghost, the ship finds herself caught between chaotic alien monsters on one side and, on the other, destruction at the hands of the Marble Armada.

©2019 Gareth L. Powell (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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A degree of AI stubbornness

Gareth L Powell's Fleet of Knives is the second installment in his Embers of War series. The TroubleDog is back on task, this time attempting to rescue a disabled ship in alien space that was salvaging a derelict vessel. Meanwhile Ona Sudak is rescued from her death sentence at the request of the marble armada and unknowingly initiates the mission which in typical stringent AI programming fashion decides to keep the peace by destroying all war vessels and doing away with interstellar travel. At the same time, an evil entity known to the marble armada from another dimension has now joined the party.

Powell overreaches a bit here. The trope here of AI entities deciding that the best way to prevent war is to destroy and kill anything possibly relevant for warfare undercuts the sophisticated nature of the AI entity. Furthermore, when in the face of a clearly superior enemy to continue to defang potential allies is the height of idiocy. Finally, the need for real human eyes suggests that their science is not advanced enough to figure out what the eye is perceiving and that an organ such as an eye is beyond cloning / 3D printing possibilities. Lastly, there's a bit too much lamentation and remonstration over past actions by many of the characters that is almost asking for a "suck it up, snowflake" comment.

Given the shifting perspectives throughout the tale, the ensemble cast of narrators was a wise decision and adds positively to the pace and mood.

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