The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Trial by Fire, Ghosts of Time, and The Savior.
Review of Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon (July 27, 2014, Baen)
Your Humble Reviewers found this volume to be much more accessible than the previous one, Fire with Fire, with a tighter plot and without such a jarring plot twist. In this book the fledgling Terran Republic is faced with an alien invasion, and that serves to bring the series into much greater focus.
Many of the mysteries left hanging in the first volume are explained in this one, but most were not surprises. The battles are well described with most everything being from an individual’s point of view, with a few larger views thrown in. The smaller attacks on Caine Riordan as an individual are well written with enough fear and confusion as well as fighting to make them realistic and believable.
Usually the viewpoint is of one person and this is done well without information creeping into the scenes which the viewpoint person should not really know. Caine’s love life continues to be a driving factor so interpersonal relationships are as believable and just as confused as those of real people.
Overall, this is a fast-paced, well written alien invasion military science fiction story with primarily single character viewpoints. If you like this type of military science fiction or something with a similar techno-thriller feel then this is a good choice for you.
We hope Gannon’s health and his many commitments allow the tales of the Terran Republic to continue at a good pace and still allow for his continued contributions to the Starfire universe and Larry Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars universe, as we enjoy them all.
Review of Ghosts of Time by Steve White (August 3, 2014, Baen)
Steve White’s newest entry in his Temporal Regulatory Authority series presents Your Humble Reviewers with a challenge: how to review a very entertaining adventure without spoiling the plot. Wish us luck.
White is in his usual fine form as Jason Thanou and his team of time-traveling problem-solvers step off the displacer stage into the last days of the American Civil War, just before the fall of Richmond, Virginia.
This time they are fighting a Transhumanist trap while trying to avoid the Observer Effect. Additional teams of TRA people are also in the same time period, some with overlapping personnel so there is the additional problem of preventing people from encountering themselves from a different point in the time stream.
Union and Confederate leaders appear as supporting characters. General Robert E. Lee and Confederate president Jefferson Davis are particularly well done and Jason interacts directly with Lee. His interactions are used to explain some historical puzzles.
As always, White’s historical research is impeccable: Civil War-era Richmond is presented in detail and both the city and areas of Northern Virginia are accurately represented, and the period weapons are depicted in enough detail to show that White has done his homework, but not so much as to bore the average reader. The supporting characters have attitudes appropriate to the period and these sometimes conflict with the attitudes of later times, of course, so it can make for difficult situations for the time-travelers.
Battles are primarily from individual viewpoints so you get the horrors of war and some information as to the bigger picture if it is something an officer of Jason’s rank would know.
Throughout the run of this series Your Humble Reviewers have been reminded of the 1960s Irwin Allen television series The Time Tunnel. Like that old TV show, Steve White’s adventures of Jason Thanou and his friends offer up a fun and entertaining romp through the infinite corridors of time.
Review of The Savior by David Drake and Tony Daniel (September 15, 2014, Baen)
This volume is set eight years after The Heretic. Abel had been the district military commander of Cascade, but the Guardian reserves got called up so he became executive officer of the Guardian Third Brigade and aide-de-camp to the colonel. Many of his Cascade people were also reserve Guardians so were placed in the Third Brigade with him.
The call-up is due to an insurgence from the Progar District using illegal weapons to attack other areas and also to defend their own territory when the forces reach Progar. Progar people had also been illegally trading with the Redlanders so when Progar attacks, the Redlanders use the distraction to attack also.
Mahaut Jacobson gets her own background subplot which gives a much closer look at how she comes to be the power behind the Jacobson family. She leads a unit of auxiliary troops. Her female warrior point of view gives the book a much more gender-balanced view than most military science fiction of this type.
Abel gets help from his girlfriend Mahaut and her unit at some crucial points, so this links her subplot to current events. He spends a large chunk of the book without Raj and Center so we see the raw Abel without the AI help. He is still a formidable tactical mind even without the AIs.
This is a fast moving, military science fiction story with a tech level where all they have is infantry and cavalry. Abel and Mahaut are atypical characters who both have interesting supporting characters (including each other). The plots are complex, with non-straight forward battles so the reader is surprised by events.
Anyone who likes military science fiction with land battles will like this book. This volume sort of concludes this phase on this planet, but there is certainly room for more works based here. Also, there is the possibility of restarting the cycle on another planet. Hopefully, one of these options will be taken up by Baen and will include female warriors as well so we get the more gender-balanced view that we do in this volume.