Oct 202013
 

Ever After
Ever After by Kim Harrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis:

Re-united with the Demon collective, the witch turned day-walking demon, Rachel Morgan is in something of a pickle: The rip in reality she accidentally caused, in the book Black Magic Sanction (Book #8), is now eating way more of the ever-after than ever before. And she is finally revealed as the demon that caused the rip, making her responsible for the damage. As the ever-after slowly leaks out, shrinking, the rip threatens the very existence of the denizens of the ever-after. And demons have never been known for their patience or understanding.

Together with former enemy turned love interest, Trent Kalamack, Rachel Morgan must marshal her friends and skills against Ku’Sox, a ‘genetically and magically engineered’ demon with delusions of godhood. Ku’Sox’s actions against Rachel turn the pressure up and it’s a race against time for Rachel to save her adopted species, her friends and even magic itself.

Review:

The premise is a lot more attractive than the actual result. I would be very interested in knowing the readership demographic of this series– that is, are women drawn to this style of writing over that of say Jim Butcher’s Dresden File series? I’m shocked by the amount of time that Rachel spends having emotional fits, and not necessarily about what I would think of as ‘the right things.’

Take, for instance, when Ceri and Lucy, Al’s former familiar and Trent’s daughter, are taken hostage, Kim Harrison rarely writes about the emotional distress, focused more on the bigger picture. Maybe this is meant to convey to the reader that Rachel has great confidence in Ceri’s ability to survive as a hostage. Instead, combined with previous omissions… like the fact that Pierce was taken two books back and potentially killed (later we learn, in the last book, that he was in fact given to Newt instead– a fate maybe worse than death)– Rachel barely thinks about rescue, or anguishes over his plight: It’s much like the story arc about saving Ivy’s soul (and therefore all Vampire souls) from being lost upon death. It gets mentioned once or twice and only in one book did we really see that any work was being done. …The omissions make Rachel seem extremely self centered and cold. Good thing there’s theoretically only 2 books (at most) left in the series, if Rachel had started out this dislikable, I dunno that I would have finished the series.

This flaw of character is magnified when Ceri and Pierce are tricked into attempting to kill Ku’Sox, and are instead killed by Ku’Sox, at which point Rachel nearly falls apart. Again, I get the possible implications underlying the omission, but absence of a fact does not prove a fact. That Rachel comments maybe three times in 15 chapters that she feels guilty over the hostage situation, and there is even a comment about how she feels the hostages will make it through, but never is there a comment about how she’s holding it together only because she believes the hostages will make it through. The two facts seem disconnected by the lack of commentary.

Also, there are a number of niggling plot points that bother me: The Demons have a law against ‘uncommon stupidity’, yet are clearly extremely stupid in their handling of the Ku’Sox’s situation. Were I writing this story, there would be a whole flurry of charges brought against a lot of people.

There are problems with the loose ends, lots of “oh well, good enough” decisions. It’s believable, because most humans I know are really that lazy, but when it’s a life or death situation I expect a little more “attention to detail.” Especially from the survivors of this series.

Ever After is packed with action though, despite the emotional lows. (read: Rachel whining.)

Starting with Quen’s attempt to get Rachel to work with Trent again, the abduction of the Rosewood babies takes center stage moving the plot forward. Quen and Rachel meet Trent and Nina/Omeh/Felix at the clinic to learn more, Nick is seen fleeing the scene. Rachel confronts Nick by cell, discovers Ku’Sox’s involvement. Ceri and Lucy are abducted, Quen badly injured. Rachel is summoned to the ever-after to stand trial. Rachel gets a reprieve and with Algalierept’s help learns enough about the ley line tear to conclusively prove that Ku’Sox is behind it.

Rachel works her way into the ever after, visits Pierce at Newt’s place and rekindles a pair of “chastity rings”, similar to Al’s “wedding rings” and Trent’s “Promise rings” (which Rachel is wearing). She declines Pierce’s proposal that they go together to murder Ku’Sox. Using the ‘chastity rings’, she and Trent go out to try to move the concentrated imbalance from one ley to another as a test run for how to fix the problem. Ku’Sox naturally shows up during the attempt, nearly lays them both out flat and then abducts Bis to prevent Rachel from finishing the fix. This is where we learn that Ku’Sox must be afraid of Rachel if he is unwilling to finish her off.

Plot point: I quibble over this point of fear– it was not a clear cut situation to me that Rachel was standing her own– nor has it ever been said before that Ku’Sox was a war-trained demon. This feels revisionist. Certain Ku’Sox was bread to have the power to defeat Elven Warlords– but if that’s the case, and his power is only as great as that of the female demon, then how is it that the female demons were all, nearly, wiped out? Bit plot holes missing explanation. Something big had to have happened and it’s not explained. Is it possible? Yes. I suppose. But that comes grudgingly.

Plot point: When the imbalance is concentrated in “Rachel’s ley line” everyone is affected, but when distributed, the house of the person who has been ‘fixed’ is not affected and likewise if all of the imbalance is moved to that person’s line, then only they are affected… wait, what? This is purely deus ex machina and does not logically follow.

Trent then distracts Rachel with a plan but instead gives himself up to Ku’Sox in exchange for the safety of his child– we later learn that this is the direct result of Nick tricking Pierce and Ceri into joining forces against Ku’Sox so that he can have an excuse to kill them. Once Rachel learns that Trent has given himself up, she attempts to summon him using the promise rings. Instead of bringing Trent to her, she goes to him. She learns a lot of things, confronts Ku’Sox and ultimately strikes a deal to get Lucy out of his hands (but not Bis or Trent), in exchange for removing the curse that binds Ku’Sox to the ever after.

Plot point: Rachel is not allowed to kill Ku’Sox after being attacked by him? But Ku’Sox can kill Pierce and Ceri after being attacked by them? I’m missing something.

Point of presentation: Someone recently read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lots of rings of power and Tolkien references in this book. If you’re going to do it, do it subtle and early, that way it seems less sudden and dramatic. You know, like mention rings of power in the first or second book, then mention them once per book thereafter. Like the breadcrumbs on the story arc with Ivy’s soul. And don’t save all your Tolkien references for one book– unless you’re like Harry Dresden and milked on pop-culture, you just can’t get away with it.

Once back in the real world, Rachel plans to steal another set of ‘chastity rings’ from an elven exhibit, manages to steal ‘slave rings’ instead and nearly gets caught. Then, during her next attempt to reveal Ku’Sox’s plan to the demon collective to clear her name, things go horribly wrong again. (This part I actually like a lot.) There is a fight and Quan, wearing the master-ring, demonstrates he is really not suited to power (surprise surprise, he says sarcastically).

They end up back with Trent who, it is revealed, master-minded the complication that forced Rachel to use ‘slave rings’ instead of ‘chastity rings.’ He, however, regrets the decision and apologizes and strangely Rachel forgives this drug trafficking, murderous, deceitful man. (What?!) Trent, as part of his apology, removes the slave ring from Rachel (ok, now I’m more convinced of his sincerity. Couldn’t this have been written so that the apology acceptance came after the demonstration of sincerity?)

Then Trent takes the slave ring and gives Rachel the master ring and Ku’Sox arrives to resume the fight. They bounce around a bit, fixing a couple of lines, fighting off Ku’Sox, and then, in the ever after, they are joined by Algalierept. He’s in chains for his part in this uncommonly stupid farce, but Rachel frees him and then wears his wedding ring and together, Al, Trent and Rachel defeat Ku’Sox.

Ku’Sox dies. Nick, who was Ku’Sox’s familiar, is taken by Newt as a replacement for Pierce, the familiar that Nick helped Ku’Sox kill.

Plot point: Earlier on (I skipped over it because it was largely window dressing to the plot) Rachel met with Dali (a demon) and made a deal that if she could prove that Ku’Sox was responsible that all debt she incurred for this problem would be transferred to him– then this little tidbit is forgotten in the denouement.

Then, Trent takes Rachel to his shack in the woods and tries to make sweet sweet love to her. The scene is postponed, but the advance is not rejected.

Oh how the mighty have fallen: from refusing to accept Trent’s murdering ways and vowing to never work for or with him, Rachel Morgan must now work with Trent to protect and help raise the myriad number of Rosewood babies from the various forces that might harm them. All because one day those babies will grow up to be demons. And, to add whip crème to this tasty crap sandwich, Rachel is now falling for Trent.

This definitely seems like the stupid shit some women do, falling for the bad boy, no matter how bad he is for you. If it wasn’t for the fact that Kim Harrison has written Rachel Morgan that way since book one I would find it unbelievable– as it is, I find it distasteful. (Falling for Nick, bad. Falling for Kisten, better but not good and he died. Half-way falling for Ivy, unsafe but she swore off. Falling for Marshall, good but he left her because of the stuff she gets herself into. Falling for Pierce, very bad and now he’s dead.)

Conclusion: I liked it, but it has a lot more plot holes and unresolved issues than previous books. I wouldn’t have been able to continue the series if this had been the quality of the first couple of books, and I’m only continuing because I’m in the home stretch– only 2 books left, in theory.

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Feb 102013
 

Dream Dark
Dream Dark by Kami Garcia

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A brief (73 page) short story re-introducing Link as a succubus, showing him learning to deal with his new identity and trying to get along with Ridley who, despite losing our Caster powers at the end of the previous book, is somehow Casting again.

It’s an interesting mini-story between Beautiful Darkness and Beautiful Chaos, books 2 and 3, but doesn’t really fit in either. It’s a segue between them and is rightfully relegated to its own short story.

I wish more authors would take this road– there have been some books I’ve read recently (in lengthy multi-book series) where the book really didn’t deserve a full book treatment. The authors made a wise choice in writing this as a short story rather than trying to flesh it out to something it wasn’t.

I liked this and have no regrets in purchasing it– I even recommend it despite the 3 star rating (which means I liked it not loved it.)

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Feb 102013
 

Beautiful Darkness
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the typical fashion of teen fiction everywhere, Beautiful Darkness introduces a “secondary love interest” for series protagonist, Ethan Wate. Lena, the girl of his dreams, is moping over having killed her adoptive father, Macon, the succubus, had been killed at the end of the previous book (she blames herself.. it’s understandable and believable teen drama.)

While Lena is busy drowning in her sorrow, hanging out with Ridley, the dark caster, and Ethan’s advesary for Lena’s affection, John. After a series of evasions, Ethan finally begins to realize that Lena is starting to see another guy and he has an opportunity to start fresh with the bookish yet beautiful Olivia.

The thing that I like best about this hiatus into teen drama is that it never went so far that I truly believed that Ethan and Olivia or John and Lena would ever become an item. On the other hand, it was believable enough that it had me worried throughout the book.

Of course, Ethan declines to pursue Olivia, but there are a couple of close calls due to Ethan feeling sorry for himself that Lena has run away with another guy. That relationship turns out to be less than what it appears to be also– John and Ridley are being manipulated by the bad guys into delivering Lena to a fantastic final confrontation wherein Lena will be used by the Dark Casters to reshape the Order.

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Oct 022012
 

Midst Toil and Tribulation (Safehold, #6)Midst Toil and Tribulation by David Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finally the Mainland-Siddarmark war begins. It’s not an invasion like we might have hoped, but instead a desperate rear-guard action to protect the innocent people of Siddarmark from the Army of God.

The constant meeting notes were less in evident, but there were several chapters that could have been culled from the book by simply summerizing the meetings. There’s not much conflict there, and they’re (to me) boring ways to provide exposition.

Not sure how I feel about Nahrman being converted into an AI. Definitely don’t believe that everyone who finds out is going to be totally OK with it. There are always going to be people who will re-think their allegiance after they started (even if they made the right decision in the first place).

I am also baffled why, after (how many books now?) 6 books, Merlin (or anyone else) hasn’t ever once considered putting SNARCS between the semaphore stations to intercept every communication that left Zion. I just accept it and move on only because the Temple Lands has stopped sending complete orders into the field (out of distrust that some among their army are heretics and traitors). So even if they did put SNARCS in a place to capture every Semaphore message, those messages don’t contain everything that happens within the Temple itself.

But, moving 40,000 troops East instead of West at the “drop of a hat” is mind-bogglingly difficult to digest. While yes, if the Imperial army had simply not put troops anywhere near that front because they didn’t expect an attack, yes that would be a problem when the forces did start moving East… the army moving East would have had to recall all of its advanced scouts… And if they didn’t, if instead they were ordered simply to ready themselves for moving West, but not to actually begin the movement… then simply by intercepting those orders it would be a lot clearer to Merlin and the rest of the Good Guys that the Temple Lands were about to pull a switcheroo.

So to think that the Empire was caught flat footed because they didn’t recognize the signs, and that the Army of God’s forces (or Desnair, or whoever) were able to turn around go in the exact opposite direction without some confusion and disarray… well… I just don’t buy it.

I think this is a case of the author becoming too clever for his own good.

I still really love the idea behind the series, but I feel like Weber is starting to let me down. That makes me a sad panda.

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Feb 172012
 

In general, I enjoyed the Starship series. The (Birthright) Universe in which these stories are set is well developed and covers over twenty thousand years of human history. These are not hard science fiction novels, the last of which was published in 2009, but are generally Space Opera in good form. (The exception is the last book, which has some major problems.) The average book was 300-330 pages with an average of 260 words per page, which equates to about 78,000 to 86,000 words (on the short side of SciFi novels). They’re light and easy reading. But, as the series progresses, my enjoyment diminished until finally I was insulted.

The high-level summary of the series is:

A Navy hero, who refuses to follow stupid orders, embarks on a life outside the Navy when he is court marshaled for mutiny (the mutiny prevents his captain from killing five million citizens of the government the Navy is sworn to protect.) Once he realizes he’s not going to get a fair trial because of media influence, he steals a military ship (a hundred year old Navy cruiser) and heads out to the Frontier to become a Pirate. After a (quick) year spent in piracy (where he only pirates one ship, and runs afoul of one pirate), our hero decides that piracy is not for him or his crew. Deciding next to become mercenaries, they ply the spaceways getting into one nasty scrape after another for a year, before they realize there has got to be a better way. It’s at this point that the hero decides they need to stop taking mercenary contracts where they’ll be required to fight. (Who needs all that noise?) and then proceed to get caught up with some Republic rebels who want them to help overthrow the Republic they once served. In the end, Cole wins against the Republic and rides off into the sunset (or flies off in to deep space, if you prefer.)

There are lots of spoilers below. You have been warned. You can click on any of the book images to be taken to their Amazon page, in case you want to learn more (or buy a copy).

Starship: Mutiny

A fun space opera about a navy hero who’s a busted down a rank and sent to a “penal ship” (a military ship where all the troublemakers are sent, and then the ship is sent to some backwaters location where it will stay out of the Navy’s way.

  • Act I. Wilson Cole arrives, takes his place as the 3rd officer of the ship. Identifying an enemy vessel on a friendly planet, he heads down to investigate. Once there, he incites the enemies in to making a few mistakes and when the cavalry arrive they destroy the enemy, save Cole, and are forced to give him a medal of courage for his trouble.
  • Act II. Sent to a still farther backwater location with two other ships to keep watch on Cole and his ship, our hero finds himself confronting a powerful enemy starship that appears to be guarding a remote and strategically useless world. Deducing that some high-ranking enemy agent is on the planet for a secret meeting, Cole talks the captain in to launching an attack against the planet. After bombing the planet, the Captain is killed but Cole and crew escape. The Navy is again required to give the crew medals.
  • Act III. Cole and crew are sent to guard two fuel depots under the command of the former Second Officer , now made Captain. When the enemy show up to try to appropriate the fuel, the Captain fires on one fuel depot, rendering the planet a radioactive wasteland and killing three million citizens. When the Captain tries to repeat the performance on the second fuel depot, Cole mutinies and prevents the death of five million more citizens (all humans), allowing the enemy to appropriate the fuel.
  • Epilogue/Denouement. Cole is tried for mutiny. The Captain who was deposed is hand-slapped and sent back to duty as Second Officer of some unnamed ship. Between this injustice and the media blitz painting Cole as a racist (saving a planet of 5M humans but not saving the planet of 3M aliens) Cole decides he’s done serving the Navy. His crew break him out of jail and head for the Inner Frontier. Maybe they should be pirates…

Starship: Pirate

The Space Opera continues with the Wilson Cole, Forrice (Four Eyes) and the crew of the Teddy R (Theodore Roosevelt) as they pursue a life of piracy.

  • Act I. They set their code of pirate ethics: They will only pirate the pirates. They set a trap for and eventually catch their first pirate. After disposing of the pirate attackers, they collect the loot on the pirate ship and set about trying to fence/sell it. We meet David Copperfield, the largest fence in the Inner Frontier. Cole is renamed Steerforth in honor of the “immortal Charles Dickens”, although only David refers to Cole this way.
  • Act II. Cole goes solo back in to the Republic to try to fence a bunch of items they recovered from the pirate that attacked them in Act I. The theory is that insurance agents would much rather pay Cole to “recover” things stolen for 1/3rd of the value of the insurance settlement than pay the full insurance settlement to the insured party. Cole meets the cardboard woman-of-many-names who eventually takes the name Cole gives her: Val (for Valkyrie). In exchange for assistance in recovering Val’s ship from a pirate that stole it from her, Val will teach Cole the ropes of piracy.
  • Act III. The Hammerhead Shark leads Cole and the Teddy R on a merry chase, but Cole figures that the Shark will eventually have to go to a fence to sell his goods so why not wait for him there? In order to get David Copperfield’s assistance, Cole has to steal an original signed copy of one of Dicken’s classics from another fence, which he does promptly and easily. The Shark shows up, there is a battle, the Shark almost gets away but Cole out-thinks him and Val decides to ditch her ship and stay a member of the Teddy R. Her crew mutinied against her, but Cole’s crew would die for him. Until she can figure out the leadership lessons needed to earn that kind of loyalty, she figures it would be better to be a 3rd officer on a great ship than Captain of a disloyal ship.
  • Epilogue: All this business of trying to fence stuff makes Cole feel like an accountant. Displeased with his experiences in piracy, he decides it’s time for a change of pace… They’re a warship, why not take up mercenary work…

Starship: Mercenary

 

  • Act I. Three months of hard fighting (between the last book and this one) have worn thin on the crew of the Teddy R. They want to be mercenaries, they just don’t want to be shot at or do any shooting. Reminiscent of the teenage complaint that being forced to work is unfair and that everything should be given to them on a silver platter, Cole decides he needs to rethink the whole strategy on accepting jobs. (More charitably, he decides he’s willing to accept less money for less risk.) We are introduced to the Platinum Duke, owner of Singapore Station. The Duke signs them up to put down “the biggest” Frontier Warlord by the name of Ghengis Khan. In the process, Val gets herself a replacement ship and Cole appropriates most of Khan’s followers for himself (when Khan is off-handedly executed.)

Sadly, Resnick’s writing starts becoming repetitive and the indefensible routine:

Usually battle plans that are months in the making and cover every conceivable detail tend to go wrong, so it was only just and fitting that Cole’s plan, conceived in less than five minutes, ran like clockwork.

Riiiiight.

  • Act II. Wilson Cole rescues an old friend of David Copperfields from a group of aliens who have renamed themselves Thuggees, and renamed their continents after Indian cities. While enjoying some “shore-leave”, Cole meets Jacovic, the admiral who led the fleet in Starship: Mutiny that threatened the Teddy R while trying to steal the nuclear fuel from the Republic. It seems Jacovic is as disillusioned with the Teronis Federation as Cole is with the Republic. Cole welcome Jacovic to join the Teddy R’s crew. This act concludes with Val having accepted mercenary work from “the biggest warlord” in the Frontier (Csonti) to pacify a planet. Cole refuses to allow innocent victims on a medical station (where he has wounded crew) to die and shepherds them in to Republic space. Csonti goes on a drugged/drunken rampage in the Signapore Station casino and is stopped by Cole, thereby causing Csonti to want to destroy Singapore station.
  • Act III. The crew of the Teddy R worry about Csonti’s impending attack (and Val is still siding with the warlord). Then Cole realizes that the station has thousands of (mostly unarmed) ships, but if even a fraction of the seventeen thousand ships have weapons and shields, they’re more than a match for Csonti’s (nearly) forty ships. Csonti backs down.
  • Epilogue/Denouement. Csonti makes a final appearance to attempt to assassinate Cole but the attempt is thwarted by Val. With the defections from Csonti’s fleet, Cole’s mercenary forces now total twenty-seven ships.

Robert Bedford said it best:

As I noted in my review of Starship Pirate, here once again Wilson Cole manages to make everything work and this is growing slightly wearying. Every plan he enacts succeeds, every challenge he faces is surpassed. A minor exception to this rule occurs at the end of the novel, but overall there is little doubt or suspension of disbelief whether or not Cole will succeed. Despite that, I’m still enjoying this series and am interested to see where Resnick is going to take the Teddy R. and its crew. So the bottom line is this: if you’ve enjoyed the first two Starship novels, there is no reason not to continue on with the story.

Starship: Rebel

By the fourth book, I’m slogging through them because I purchased books 4-5 before I’d finished reading book 3. I enjoyed books 1-2 (I overlooked the flaws). But, by the time I finished book 3, if I had not already purchased books 4-5, I wouldn’t have.

  • Act I. This book’s second chapter takes it’s first six paragraphs (really paragraphs 2-7) almost verbatim from the second book, Starship: Pirate, when the Theodore Roosevelt first makes its way to Singapore Station. Is it plagarism when you copy work from yourself?

    As Starship: Rebel continues, Cole starts sliding from mercenary to rebel: he stops requiring payment for every engagement. He rescues a random kid who is being set upon by the Republic Navy. The kid turns out to be the son of Octopus, “the biggest warlord” in the Inner Frontier. (After the third time I’ve heard this, each time the warlord being bigger than the last, I lose my ability to believe Resnick’s narration… Resnick, not the character.) Octopus wants Cole to join him in ruling the Inner Frontier. Cole says no. Forrice is tortured and killed, Cole gets revenge and kills Forrice’s killers. This concludes Act I. When Cole refuses to kill a Navy ambulance ship from rescuing survivors from the ship Cole destroyed the Navy learns of Cole’s actions.

  • Act II. They send a punishment party and an Inner Frontier world is destroyed. The death almost entirely happens off screen. While Cole’s reaction to Forrice’s death is believable, the death of millions is more or less an afterthought. A random act intended to launch the actions of Act II. We’re led to believe that Cole would have let Forrice’s death go simply with getting revenge, but because the Navy committed genocide against a planet full of innocents, he’s now going to destroy every Navy ship in the Frontier. After many pinpricks, the Navy decides to send a punishment party against Singapore Station. This causes Octopus to throw in with Cole, as his subordinate. Then, to get more information, Cole decides to infiltrate a Navy base to steal classified information. He meets Lafferty, a Republic Rebel, who pledges another few hundred ships to Cole’s fleet.

While I do like Resnick’s writing style, there are things I don’t like. The following example epitomizes everything I dislike about Resnick’s writing style: On his way back from a solo mission in Republic space, where he infiltrated a Navy base to steal classified information, Wilson Cole is stopped by ships from his growing Inner Frontier fleet. They don’t recognize him or the Republic ship he’s stolen and because of that they almost kill him.

“This is Wilson Cole. I have captured the Republic ship known as Raging Tiger. My code word is Four Eyes. May I have an escort to Singapore Station, please?”

“This is Miguel Flores, Captain of the Golden Dawn,” came reply. “I am not aware of any code word. Also, I’ve met Captain Cole, and you’re not him.”

“What the hell are you talking about? The code is Four Eyes.”

“Nobody gave me any code word,” said Flores.

“Let me guess. You just joined this week.”

“That’s right.”

“Before you do something rash,” said Cold, “contact the Theodore Roosevelt. They will confirm my current appearance and my code word.”

“They’d better,” said Flores. A minute later his image was back, “All right, Captain Cole. You’ve got an escort.”

His image vanished.

“What if they’d shot first?” asked Dozhin.

“You’d be past worrying about it by now,” answered Cole.

“Is that all you’ve got to say?” demanded the alien.

“What do you want me to say?” responded Cole. “I’m the one who declared open season on Republic ships once they enter the Frontier. I can hardly get mad at anyone for carrying out my orders”

“I have come to the conclusion that you are not a military hero after all,” said Dozhin after some consideration.

“That’s what I’ve been telling you all along.”

“What you are,” continued Dozhin, “is a madman with a death wish!”

“If you say so.”

“Hah! You don’t deny it?”

“Would it do any good?” said Cole. “Your mind’s made up. But don’t forget that this madman kept you alive when Lafferty’s ship was stopped, and again just now.”

“Dumb luck.”

“The intelligent don’t depend on luck,” said Cole. “And the dumb don’t understand how it works.”

This superficial conflict is common throughout Resnick’s stories. People rarely die (unless they’re the bad guy), are never injured in any way that is permanently debilitating, and almost all conflicts are resolved with words (despite the fact that millions of ships in the Republic Navy have been in a century or longer war with the neighboring Federation.)

On the other hand, moments later as Dozhin and Cole part ways (never to see each other again), Dozhin is trying to wheedle money out of Cole. Cole gives him a ten dollar bill and tries to set him up with a job, but our curmudgeon Dozhin doesn’t want a job. In response Cole quips:

“Suit yourself. I hope you and the ten dollars have a long and happy life together.” …

The series is filled with these darlings. For Space Opera, you really can’t ask for more.

  • Act III. With help from Cole’s mercenary fleet, volunteers from around the Inner Frontier, Rebels from inside the Republic, and the Octopus’ armed starships, the Inner Frontier is able to defeat a Navy punishment fleet. They defeat them by sacrificing four ships for every Navy ship destroyed.
  • Epilogue/Denouement. Cole decides

Starship: Flagship

At this point, I’ve given up trying to write a review… This whole book makes me want to go back and do a Reasoning With Vampires treatment to this series, picking at the plot holes, continuity errors (and admittedly infrequent grammar error.) Here are a few choice quotations to show you what you’re facing if you read this book. YMMV.

“Our side has a redhead who wants to attack all three million Republic ships at once, an egomaniacal criminal kingpin with eight hands, a platinum cyborg who’s only willing to go to war as long as no one shoots back, and an alien who thinks he’s David Copperfield,” replied Cole with a wry grimace. “How can we lose?”

The above gem is found on Page 21. I think that pretty much defines the book. A little later, we’re presented with:

“You have fifty-three people on this ship, and you’re going to find reasons why fifty-two of them can’t possibly lead the boarding party, am I right?”

“You’re complicating the issue unnecessarily,” complained Cole.

“And you’re showboating,” she said. “If you heard of any other Captain doing this, you’d call it egomania.”

You waited until book five to bring this up?

And then, 81 pages in to the book, Wilson Cole stumbles upon a brilliant plan that gets the enemy to defeat themselves. He sends a message:

“This is Wilson Cole, speaking to you from the bridge of the Theodore Roosevelt. If you have any doubt of my identity, run a voice-print.” He paused to give them the opportunity to do just that. “Four years ago you imprisoned me for an action that saved file million human lives. That is a disagreement between you and me, and I was content to live out my life on the Inner Frontier, well beyond your jurisdiction. But your pursuit of me has enlarged our disagreement to include literally billions of men, women, and aliens. You have committed genocide, you have practiced torture, and you have proven yourself totally unworthy of the trust of the citizens of the Republic have placed in you. You have one Standard day in which to resign your position. If you do not, then be assured that you will be forcibly removed from it. This is not an idle threat, and I’m not grandstanding: if you have not resigned within one Standard day, we shall be at hazard. And this time I won’t be running from you, but toward you.”

This treat results in an non-proportional response:

Cole’s message had an immediate and deleterious effect. Not on the Teddy R, which was a third of the galaxy away from Deluros VIII, but on almost anything that moved and didn’t bear the insignia of the Republic.

Wait, what? And as if that wasn’t enough, chapter seven continues:

A convoy of eleven ships, carrying ore from the mining worlds of the Frontier to the shipbuilding world of Spica II, didn’t identify itself quickly enough and was obliterated.

Two men– one high on whiskey, one high on drugs– got into a fight on Bishawn IV. Weapons were drawn, a single pulse blast was fired, it went wild and hit a bystander, more guns and shots were fired, and [sic] bartender sent out a distress signal that people were shooting at each other, the Navy picked it up, and a moment later the tavern and all seventy-one of its customers and employees were vaporized.

Every ship, whether business or pleasure, was inspected, released, then inspected again in the next system, and the system after that. Anyone who didn’t give the Navy the answers they wanted, or who didn’t give them fast enough, or clearly enough, or often enough, was incarcerated without appeal.

Loyal alien worlds, longtime members of the Republic, were suddenly viewed with suspicion. Terrified Ambassadors– Cole’s messages had passed through channels and had leaked within an hour– insisted on Navy escorts. Private ships became convinced that other private ships were in the employ of the notorious Wilson Cole, and begun firing on each other.

Yea, right. That’s believable. (Better put on your waders, the sarcasm and BS is getting thick around here.)

“Just tell me that you really have a plan.”

“I really have a plan,” replied Cole. “Plus about ten contingency plans, since nothing is guaranteed against an enemy of this magnitude and with its resources.”

“But you have a plan?” repeated the Octopus.

“I have a plan.”

“Fucking well better!” growled the Octopus.

“Now, if you’re through with your little fit of pique, let’s see what we can do about getting your people the hell off the ship before we can’t stand the sight of you and vice versa.”

“If you’re that damned anxious to get rid of us, set us down on the next oxygen world.”

Wait, what? What’s the plan? (When have you ever had a plan?)

“Don’t make me play guessing games,” said the Octopus. “Just tell me what were going to do about my situation.”

This gem happens towards the conclusion of the scene in which the previous quote was taken. Sometimes, even the characters know what’s best for the plot… Cole’s brilliant proposal is to capture Cargo ships, so that they can land

“But we’ll still be in an unarmed ship,” said the Octopus.

“Initially,” Cole agreed. “Before long you’ll be in a dozen unarmed cargo ships.” Cole paused. “The advantage is that you can land.  Choose a planet that has a major Republic presence, maybe the capital world of one of the galactic sectors, and harass and disrupt it on the ground. They’ll be looking for an attack from space, by the Teddy R or some Teroni ship. You’ll actually have an easier time of it with a ground attack.”

Yes, that makes perfect sense! Eighty rebels against the security forces of a capital world is the perfect plan! Let’s look at those numbers: hundreds of millions, possibly billions of citizens, with even 2% of the citizenry being dedicated to law enforcement– and that’s discounting the military population stationed there– if we assume the world has half of Earth’s population, at 2% that’s still over sixty million law enforcement personnel. Sixty-million to 80. mmm… I love me some odds like that. (Someone must be proposing the needle in a haystack approach to evading law enforcement.)

Later, Cole and his girlfriend (the Security Officer on his ship) talk:

Do you have a plan?”

“I wouldn’t call it that,” said Cole. “There are too many variables.”

“But you know what you want to do.”

“I want to win the war.”

“You know, sometimes you can be very annoying to talk to readI think the Octopus had a point.

(That strike-through is my contribution to the dialogue.)

Cole goes on to run a war of propaganda against the Republic, bombing abandoned worlds and claiming that the Teronis Federation has been making deep strikes in to the Republic. Then, in a final gambit, he plots an infiltration to force the republic government to re-elect better representatives (hoping to clean up the government through a semi-coup)… but he plans to head back to the core, and as one of the elected officials mentions, the Republic voted all these officials in the first time– what makes Cole think that they wouldn’t vote them in again?

The conclusion of the story has an indefensible deus ex machina: an alien race that has never been mentioned in the story prior to the climax appears out of nowhere, forcing the Republic’s government to capitulate to Cole’s demands and in a single line, Resnick sends Cole to “ride in to the sunset” (so to speak.)

Feb 082012
 
Where we are introduced to the Domers, the facility administrator Yaan, and two previous characters are brought to the Domes: Shayah, our now named female Tekk-human from the Talguth, and Frederick-Raayat-Tyr. In four scenes we’re succinctly told a lot about Dome life, and the kind of people who live in the Dome. We’re introduced to a earthborn human that is transferred to the Domes to join the scientists—who is expected to be trouble. The pacing and excitement in the story are really ramping up. What kind of firestorm can we expect from this melting pot? Let’s go find out…

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 16.

Yuang: Dome Five

I love the opening to this chapter:

He couldn’t fix it. Immediately we know the conflict. Try though he might, the machine defied him. He hoped that if he fought with it long enough, followed every circuit from beginning to end with careful enough eyes, he might come up with a different cause for the trouble they were having with it. Not only can he not fix it, but the problem that he’s having is bad and he wishes it were otherwise. A more acceptable cause. But he had been through every circuit at least twice, had tested every component he could remove or reach, and the diagnosis remained the same. A biochip had died. Simple. It had to be replaced. Simple. I love the rhythm of the last four “sentences.” Short, staccato and as pleasant as machine-gun fire.

“Shit.”

We can tell instantly we’re following a new character. Is it a Tekk? Is it one of the fabled human intellectuals who were spirited away by the Tyr? (We’re told in Chapter 13 something about the Domes. That’s where our Tekk would be transferred to the Domes on her way to another ship.)

Yaan, the man trying to fix the chip. Tereza, a fellow researcher. Sung, a fellow researcher. Tereza’s had word from the Tyr, they’re not only sending a Tekk to fix the chip but also delivering another earthborn. Yaan can’t bear the thought of either. Hints that the humans had bombed and electronically erased much of their own knowledge during the Conquest. But why?

The earthborn might read about such things, might know hte history, the when and the how and supposedly the why of them … but would never consider all the implications. Never.

Which tells me instantly why. I’m pretty sure I suspected even in my first read through. As Yaan considers the difficulty of breaking in a new earthborn addition to their team, he reveals the fate of the last transfer:

“He killed himself,” he said quietly.

* * *

Yaan, we learn, is in charge of the facility. Twelve unit managers and their assistants are crammed in to  a lounge that Yaan had fought tooth and nail to create. The Tyr delegation was thankfully small, from the Talguth. A Raayat, a Tekk woman of African heritage and the earthborn transfer.

With a deep, heartfelt sigh of dread, he knew that this one was going to be trouble. Big trouble. He assessed the youth with a practiced eye, and felt himself growing more and more worried. The man—say rather, boy—was sixteen. If that old. Bad, very bad. Not yet a child, not quite an adult, filled with the insecurities of both and an admixture of hormones that practically guaranteed overreaction to stress. Bearing himself in a manner that implied he had come to work, he had come to do things, he was very excited about being here and could they please, please, get through the preliminaries very fast, becauseh he couldn’t wait to get started.

We’re going to lose him, Yaan thought grimly. One way or another.

I love the treat implied in that last sentence. Here is a man who has done everything to create a little comfort for the people in his facility. Here is a threat to that comfort.

* * *

Yaan and our female Tekk (nameber Yol Shayay To Hegyam Haal) go to the equipment with the defective chip. Yaan leaves the equipment open to clearly tell the Tekk that he’d tried to fix it without her and that she was not welcome. Had she been there to fix it, he thinks, she could have replaced the unit in five minutes. Instead, Shayay launches into a passionate monologue about her reason for accepting transfer: The Tekk have been submitting to the Will so that they could establish a network of communication, and with it now in place they need information that will reveal the Tyr’s weakness and allow humanity to reclaim their freedom. Yaan is reluctant (or unable) to help.

She stared at him for a long while in silence; the markings on her face made it impossible for him to read her. At last she told him, “In seventy-four days I’m scheduled to be transferred to another longship. To join a tribe of strangers, whose language base is different than mine. To give my body to a stranger for use, and commit myself to making babies for him … all so that I could be here today. To talk to you.” Another long silence; he didn’t dare meet her eyes. “I’ll be back when the biochip is tested, to install it. We’ll talk then.”

* * *

We conclude with a scene showing a conflict between Yaan and Frederick-Raayat. Frederick wants to observe science-humans, but the humans have claimed to the Tyr that observation diminishes creativity. For the moment, Frederick accepts this, and departs but clearly the matter is not settled.

Outside the Dome, a firestorm was just igniting.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Shayay is offering some kind of alliance between the Tekk and the scientists in the Domes.
  • Nogyat is young, dumb and full of …
  • Frederick and Shayay are both on Yuang.
  • What kind of science are they doing? Rats brains in blenders?

Stakes: Nogyat, the earthborn transfer is a danger to the domes. Shayay, the female Tekk wants cooperation from the scientists which is a danger to the domes. Frederick, the Raayat, wants to observe science-humans, which is a danger to the domes. Doom, doom, and more doom.

Jan 282012
 
This chapter is one of my favorite in the novel. Daetrin awakens from near death and is introduced to Kiri, the Marra, our Marra. Kiri begins revealing the relationship between Daetrin and the Marra race, and Daetrin accepts challenge of defeating the Priest-Marra of Cantona.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 15.

Daetrin awakens in the Honaqa Gorge. A brief exchange between a young woman we don’t immediately recognize and Daetrin takes place, in Greek, and then Daetrin is pushed back in to unconsciousness (to facilitate healing.) The young woman (later to be named Kiri) awakens Daetrin long enough to feed him her blood, then he passes out again. He awakens again, and this time he’s stronger but still severely wounded.

… She had drawn me against her, and her offer was unmistakable. It was there in the scent of her flesh, in the pounding of her blood beneath her skin, so close against my face. I felt the last vestiges of my self-control slipping away into darkness, and I lacked the strength—and the desire—to fight for its return

Who are you?

What are you?

Why?

How many year had it been, since I had last tasted human blood? Even in the Time Before that was a rare occurrence; I would no more have forced that attention upon a woman than I would any other violent hunger. Animal blood had sufficed for me, as it did for most of my kind. And I had forgotten. The intoxication of feeding on one’s own kind. The heady flavor of human life. The feel of a woman’s body in my arms, and the heat of her blood as I drank it in—the scent of her, so very female, which awakened other hungers—the need to hold her, to drink her in, until my body shivered in pleasure, my desperate hunger reduced to mere desire. I had forgotten there was anything like this … and maybe, in fact, I had never known. What human woman could ever have given herself in this way, with so little fear of consequence?

Again Kiri and Daetrin talk. She explains the nature of the Marra and then asks him the nature of his kind. He is embodied (not Marra), she is not. There’s more, but you should read it yourself. A lot of dialogue that gives you subtle hints; Kiri seems vulnerable despite being Daetrin’s healer and protector.

Then, when Daetrin awakes, he is alone.

Terrible emptiness inside me: I convinced myself that it was only hunger, a physical yearning, and had nothing to do with my isolation. It was good to be free of fear for once, with no one to answer to but myself. No aliens to analyze, no humans to deceive, no home to worry about defending. Nothing to save, or abandon. An animal freedom, dream-pure. It was a welcome relief.

Wasn’t it?

And when Daetrin takes the form of a cat (he’s always near his original mass when he shape-shifts) and encounters Kiri, in the shape of a mountain cat.

Which is when I heard the other cat coming. I drew myself back and hissed, an instinctive reaction; hunting cats defend their solitude with vigor. But I wasn’t prepared for what bounded out at me, with such playful enthusiasm that I was knocked back onto my haunches in surprise, all my hostility suddenly deflated.

It was a mountain cat, female, smaller than myself, in that stage of life just past kittenhood. And I would like to say that I knew what it really was because my senses were so keen, or my reasoning so sound. Or because my cat-body could pick up the scent of alienness that surrounded her, or some similarly impressive accomplishment. But the truth was simply that she still had human eyes—the same human eyes—and the chestnut fur with russet tipping, that perfectly matched the shade of her human hair.

The cat psyche is a straightforward thing, infinitely simpler than its human counterpart. In it there is no conflict of id or superego, no wrestling of divergent emotions, no clouding of issues with intellectual complexity. As a man, I would have greeted her return with misgivings, any hint of happiness stifled by my concern over her nature and purpose. And alarm at her shapechanging. But as a cat I was simply glad to see her, my joy unfettered by human concerns. And I think it showed.

She padded near to where I stood, and extended her nose for perusal. I sniffed her gingerly, knowing that feline instinct was wary of any new scent. But her sent was arm, encouraging … even mildly arousing. It circumvented the biochemical channels that warned of danger and left, in its wake, an offer of companionship.

Later, after hunting, they talk again.

“You are feeling better?” she asked.

It occurred to me suddenly that she really didn’t know the full extent of what she’d done. And how could she, when even I barely understood it?

“You saved my life,” I said quietly. With as much gratitude in my voice as that one phrase could contain. And hunted with me, which no woman has done in centuries. Memories arose within me, painful and compelling. Brigid. Bianca. Yolanda. For a moment I was lost, hunting in those other times. Feeling the pain all over again, as fate took each companion from me. And the loneliness—always the loneliness.

The chapter concludes with Daetrin agreeing to follow Kiri to Suyaag, the human capital of Meyaga, once he has freed Cantona from the Priest-Marra.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Daetrin feels an emotional/sexual bond to Kiri as a result of her feeding him “human” blood, and because of her hunting with him. What’s going to happen between then?
  • Daetrin commits to traveling to Suyaag with Kiri, a merging of purpose. What will this mean for Daetrin’s future?
  • Daetrin commits to expelling the Priest-Marra from Cantona. Will he succeed?

Stakes: Free the Cantonan people from the Priest-Marra, learn his abilities, test himself before he proceeds with his fight against the Tyr.

Jan 272012
 
I’ve been a little lax with posting my reviews. I’m going to try to catch up this weekend, get a few scheduled in advance.

In this very short chapter, we evaluate a flashback moment. Based on context, it must be Daetrin’s POV. He’s in a church, during an era when there is a Plague.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 14.

From a purely informational basis, this page-and-a-half chapter adds nothing to the story. (Really, it doesn’t.) The narrative is historical, it presents a time in the POVC’s life when they are living in a community that has been struck by the Plague. They are trying to establish themselves within the community, and they are faced with a priest who conducts a ritual (communion and consumption of the Body and the Blood of Christ).

Informationally we are presented with:

  • His mother was a priestess and oracle (possibly predating Alexandria.)
  • His father was a scholar of Alexandria, trading his knowledge for acceptance (and other necessities and luxuries.)

The timing of the piece is indistinct. There’s a lot of periods when the Plague ran rampant through the world. The was an epidemic in Asia in the late 1800s that even made its way to California via Hawaii. Based on what we know, it would have had to have been late 1800s to early 1900s. The one thing I found when looking up information on the Plague is that it did not reach the same level of severity in Europe that it did in Asia— and because of the lack of specifics we can’t know where we are, or when we are.

What the timefugue does do though is set the mood. We know that Daetrin fell off a cliff and nearly died (it was possible he died, but unlikely… he is the protagonist after all.)

There are thematic similarities between the last chapter and this one. The hostile community. Daetrin’s attempts to fit in (but the conclusion of this chapter says he never fits in). The priest. The chapter moves the mood and pacing from Daetrin’s attempt to flee (and near death experience) to something more claustrophobic. In this scene/chapter, we’re not shown anything outside of the church and we’re told little more. There’s a sense of brooding danger, hidden just out of site.

I’m left with the conclusion that the point of this scene is to draw back from the fast pacing of Daetrin fleeing and transition to a lower paced scene.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks: None, this short chapter suggests that Daetrin is not dead.

Stakes: None.

Jan 222012
 
In this Chapter, we see the world through the Tyr’s eyes. What might otherwise be considered “a day in the life of” provides meaningful hints about future events. The scene also hints and suggests at themes tied to the title of the novel.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 13.

This chapter comes in at approximately 900 words. A single scene that depicts the interaction between the Tyr-whole and the Talguth-Tekk (who is also starsha), we’re told that two children have died and that the Talguth must trade Tekk for genetic diversity. The brief scene provides us a look in to the mind of the Tyr-whole,

… One of its Raayat on board the Kamugwa was in the presence of an acceptable human contact, and therefore It used that body as a mouthpiece, even though it was far gone in to season. (Soon, soon. How long must It wait? It needed/ they needed/ a Burning …)

I could make all sorts of inappropriate (out of context) comments here, but I’m not that snarky.

The scene also provides us hints as to the actions and motivations of the Tekk. The Tyr decide that the Talguth-Tekk will transfer to the Domes where eventually the Kamugwa will retrieve her (the Tekk). We’re given a feel for how information passes between the Tyr bodies:

… It consulted Its charts through a distant Kuol, …

and

… It paused, to question its distant contact. …

and

… It accepted the lists from here, and transfered [sic] them into its other brains. …

Lastly, a hint is thrown out about the titular season (it happens midway through the scene, but I’m putting it at the end of my write up for emphasis):

There was no time in the foreseeable future when the Talguth and the Kamugwa could rendezvous. And with summer coming, things would become even more difficult…. [sic, yes, there really are four periods, at least in the kindle version.]

 

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

Stakes:

Jan 222012
 

The starship Theodore Roosevelt is fighting on the far outskirts of a galactic war, its crew made up of retreads and raw recruits. A new first officer reports, Wilson Cole, a man with a reputation for exceeding his orders (but getting results). He’s been banished to the Teddy R. for his actions, but once there he again ignores his orders and again comes away triumphant.

It is when the captain of the ship stubbornly follows orders that Cole knows are wrong that he takes command of the ship and wins a major battle. But victorious or not, the service cannot condone a mutiny, even a bloodless one, and he is brought back to stand trial. But Wilson Cole realizes that a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion…

This is the first of five proposed novels about the starship Theodore Roosevelt. The next four will be, in order, Pirate, Mercenary, Rebel, and Flagship.

The description of the book (from Goodreads) is actually misleading, because the story doesn’t happen that way. It would be more accurate to depict the story thusly:

The starship Theodore Roosevelt is patrolling the far outskirts of the Republic during a galactic war, its crew the unwanted and untrustworthy, at least from the Navy’s perspective. Wilson Cole joins the ships crew, as a new officer, recently demoted, with a reputation for disregarding his orders (but getting results). Though Cole was banished to the Teddy R., he refuses bad orders and once again comes away triumphant.

When the captain of the ship, stubbornly following orders, does something that Cole knows is wrong, he takes command of the ship to avert the death of millions. But, victorious or not, the service cannot condone a mutiny, even a bloodless one, and he’s brought back to stand on trial. Wilson Cole soon realizes that a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion…

And you’ve pretty much summarized the book. It’s a fun romp, almost a space opera. The story is really the inciting event for the five-part story; the life of the Teddy R. (and it’s crew.)

Read further only if you don’t mind spoilers.

There is a lot to like in the first book of the Starship series, and I’ll list a few of the things I like. The writing is great (with a few notable exceptions), the humor is enough to make me smile more than once, a lot of the antics in the book are exploited to world build for readers who are not familiar with Resnick’s Birthright Universe (i.e., me). When you reach the end of the book, you get treated to several appendices, one of which is a timeline of his universe (somewhere in the area of eighteen thousand years 72 stories of indeterminate length.) The richness of the universe and its history really comes through in Resnick’s writing, and you can really see the degradation of the Republic’s government towards a government where the will of the people (stupid as they often are) becomes more important than the will of the representatives who are voted in to power.

Which segways nicely in to some of the things that were wrong with the book. Wilson Cole is the consummate hero, but he is also the consummate cynic. His history, and how he got demoted to the Teddy R., is presented in dialogue and narrative description. It’s history, and Resnick is unapologetic in skipping over the inciting events that lead Cole to the titular Starship. Furthermore, there are some fairly gaping holes in the plot and a few obvious failures in rendering natural dialogue. (If you don’t think about them, everything reads smoothly, but once you do it’s jarring.)

  1. The Bortellites (the bad guys in Act I) are on the planet to obtain power to fuel their ships. Geothermal energy. The natural question is, since most planets should have a geothermal core, why are they in Republic space (enemy space) collecting geothermic energy from this planet? The answer we’re given is that the planet is geothermically active, and with unstated exclamation points. The energy they can get from this planet is greater than any available in their own territory (because if it wasn’t, why would they enter enemy space to steal it?) Considering the fact that this is some three to four thousand years forward in time, it seems a marked lack of imagination on Resnick’s part. Why couldn’t they just build giant solar panel planets in space and collect all the excess heat and photonic energy that every star (closer to the enemies’ home territory) produces rather than going to where Wilson Cole is located?
  2. In Act II, the pilot of the Teddy R states “I’ve put some ground between us and them,” except that (you guessed it) they’re in space. The use of this archaic term aboard a vessel which, we are told, never sets down on planets (and the crew haven’t seen shore leave in a very long time, and the pilot who makes the comment is plugged in to the navigation systems, permanently.) The anachronism is jarring.
  3. In Act III, Cole’s military counselor says, “You  didn’t make your captain walk the plank, or whatever they do these days.” Ok, first the military lawyer demonstrates an intimate familiarity with common practices aboard navel vessels four thousand years prior to the present (in the book), and then he displays a complete lack of familiarity with what passes for common practice aboard present day naval vessels. Wait, what?
  4. In Act III, the political climax of the book, we’re told that everyone is against Cole because he failed to prevent the death of three million Benidottes (but saved five million humans, and his former Captain has been telling the press that he’s bigoted and xenophobic… so the reason he didn’t save the Benidottes is because he hates all other species except humans. This prevents the Navy from finding him innocent.) I’m struggling (like the characters in the book) to understand how the entire civilization is so firmly under the control of the mass media that no one is capable of thinking for themselves.
  5. In Act III, after Cole accepts defeat so that his service mates are not sacrificed to politics along with him (but he’s planning to attempt an escape from prison), Resnick narrates “… Cole lay down on his narrow, uncomfortable cot, dwelling on the realization that he’d spent his entire adult life in the unquestioning service of a military that could do this to him.” (Emphasis mine). Except that the whole point of his history is that he’s never, ever served unquestioningly. The very reason he was sent to the Teddy R. in the first place is because he questioned (and disobeyed) orders, and he’s been questioning (and disobeying) orders throughout the last 245 pages.

Lastly, the climax of the book is political where the first and second Acts of the novel are both action. The result is to cause the quick pacing of the story to grind to a near halt while the protagonists “rot in jai.” Since this is the start of a series, and there are more books to come, I’m willing to forgive. I like Resnick’s voice (as a writer) and Wilson Cole is fun to spend time with.