Review of Kevin (from Archie Comics) by Paul Kupperberg (Grosset& Dunlap paper-over-board novel, April 18, 2013)
Kevin Keller is the first openly gay kid at Riverdale High. He had a comic miniseries which was very successful, so he went to an ongoing series which is now on its eighth issue. The second issue of that series dealt with Kevin’s first high school prom. Kevin had been elected class president in issue four of the miniseries, so it fell to him to select a theme for the prom and get all the decorating done. Being a smart leader he delegated most of the decorating to classmates Veronica Lodge and Jughead Jones.
The time the three characters spent decorating for the prom is the framing story for this novel, which tells of Kevin’s middle school prom. As with all Archie tales, the teenage characters are realistic and have a wide variety of family situations. This novel has a strong anti-bullying message and shows how both victims and bystanders can change the situation. One character has a particularly bad home situation where even his father bullies him. Kevin befriends the boy, whose name is Luke, and ends up helping him accept that many students at Medford Middle School are willing to be his friends.
In a time of crisis, Luke comes out as gay to Kevin, trying to show Kevin that no one will want to be his friend because of what he is. Kevin has a nice speech about what he thinks of people who will hate someone for being gay and tells Luke, everyone but the bully will like you for who you are, not who you love (Note that at this time Kevin was not identifying as gay). Helping Luke makes Kevin realize something about himself which had caused him a great deal of confusion and eventually leads to Kevin coming out to his middle-school friends (how he came out to his parents is shown in the comics).
This coming-out story of Kevin and Luke is sweet with a hint of sadness, as well as funny in some places, particularly when Kevin tries to figure out why he doesn’t think his female best mate Sammie is sexy. Luckily for Kevin she is understanding and she is more relieved that there is not something wrong with the way she looks than she is concerned that Kevin likes boys. For anyone who is struggling to find who they are, for people who want to understand those who are doing so, and for those who did so in a time when Luke’s words about hatred were true almost everywhere, this is an excellent read. Read it yourself to see how great it can be when you have understanding friends and family. Riverdale is a fictional place, but the relationships are realistic; share it with friends and family members to make your own coming-out story an easier one. For adults, sharing this book with your teen can help them understand themselves or someone they know because the message is not just about coming out as gay, it is about standing up to bullies and how people with differences can be accepted. It truthfully shows how sometimes having two differences can lead to acceptance, because identifying as a geek makes you fit in that crowd, no matter what other differences you have. If you have ever attended a science fiction convention, you have seen this idea in action because you see every type of person imaginable and they are all part of the geek crowd, and they don’t notice the differences of others because they feel different too.
If you like the Kevin Keller character and would like to read more, check your local comic or book store for comic issues, and compilation paperbacks. Issues can also be read by way of digital comic book apps.
In honor of the finale of this season of Doctor Who, Your Humble Columnists present a review of our trip to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay. First of all, pay attention when you buy tickets because they offer a package deal with a brochure, a t-shirt, some postcards and a cool certificate that says you flew the TARDIS, which looks expensive at first until you realize that most of the stuff you can’t buy even at the Experience. They even have a way to buy a family-of-four package. When buying tickets in the US for events in the UK, pre-paying for extras is always a wise move because of fluctuations in the exchange rate and the usual cash shortage when on holiday overseas. The Doctor Who Experience is a bit of a hike from the closest bank machine so you are better off to pre-pay for some goodies and save your cash for those “I MUST have this!” moments in the little shop.
One of the first things you will notice upon arrival in Cardiff Bay is that as you look out over the water with the Millennium Center and the Torchwood Tower behind you, looking off to the left you will see the TARDIS parked rather unsteadily on an outcropping of rock. This marks the entrance to the Doctor Who Experience, so you simply hike or take a taxi (recommended if you have little ones) as close to the TARDIS as you can get, then you will be outside the building for the Experience. Once inside you will see that there is a little café and a ticket counter. The café is a good place to rest after your hike and to take turns watching your things as everyone makes a restroom run. The Experience is like a museum with a specific path to follow through which is timed by the electronic things going on around you, so leaving to go to the restroom can cause you to miss most of it.
The interactive parts of the Experience which you enter first are quite well-done, with things in the room reacting, videos turning themselves on, and a TARDIS to fly. This is quite good fun even for adults, as all the sides of the console have controls so many people have the chance to fly it and you get directions as to what to do. Of course you have some monster experiences, which are quite exciting and possibly a bit scary for the under 8s, just like the show.
After you exit the interactive portion of the Experience, you enter a section with costumes of companions and monsters, models of technology from the show and an exhibit of all eleven Doctors’ primary costumes from 1963 to present day. There you can also step onto the edge of The Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS console and you can take a picture of yourself there. Nearby is a photography area where you stand in front of a green-screen and it places you in the background of your choice. This is quite cool because you can end up with a souvenir photo of your group with the TARDIS on an alien planet. Like this:
Once you exit the museum area you end up in the souvenir shop, which sells a large variety of Doctor Who merchandise. If you are interested in t-shirts, be sure to ask which ones are not available anywhere else. Also they have other special merchandise for the Experience only, so check on which these are before making your buying choices. The prices are standard retail so unless one of the main street stores is having a special you will not pay any more for things than you would at Toys R Us (there is a large one of these in a Cardiff retail park) or Argos (a UK store sort of like Service Merchandise used to be).
On return to Cardiff Bay, there are several sites which were used as filming locations both in the Bay and short distances away by car or taxi. Look for a list on the web of these sites before heading out to explore. Some food suggestions: you must not miss Welsh cakes which are sold hot from a shop in the bay. Also for child-friendly fare there is a good hamburger restaurant in the bay and a Pizza Express which carries many American style entrees. For Asian fusion food there are branches of the Wagamama chain in Cardiff. For inexpensive UK entrees try one of the pubs in the area, there are several with good food near the bay and in town. There is a massive shopping center in town which has just about every chain in the UK and some stores you don’t find in London, like the wonderful shoe store Hotter.
Hopefully this information will make all our Whovian readers want to visit Cardiff; it is well worth the train trip from London. Too many Americans think a visit to London means they have visited the UK, but by skipping Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland they have really missed out on some beautiful countryside with much cleaner air.
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Transgalactic and World Divided Book Two of the Secret World ChroniclesPosted: 8 May, 2013
Coming to paperback this month, Transgalactic by A.E. van Vogt and World Divided Book Two of the Secret World Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee and Veronica Giguere.
In case you missed it last year when the hardback was released, Mercedes Lackey has a second book in her (and her co-authors) superhero series. It goes to paperback this month. Echo and CCCP including John Murdock continue to battle the Thulians. In this volume a rare chance at some intelligence on the Thulians allows Echo and friends to attack in the Thulians’ space rather than waiting for them to attack. This gives some of Echoe’s misfits some field experience working together but also reveals some weaknesses embedded in the group.
The angel does her best to steer people to the best path for humans to beat the Thulians, but this isn’t always so pleasant in the short term. Tesla is still hamstrung by the democratic processes of Metis in this volume but communication to him is restored somewhat.
There are some changes in the Echo management and oversight which cause the heroes to do more things off the book but even with the problems many members of Echo and CCCP do not feel as helpless by the end of this volume. Hope has been restored in a limited way even though the Thulians are far from defeated.
This volume shows more depth of some younger characters presented in the last volume and shows maturing relationships of the characters on which the action was centered in the last volume. Several of the troubled characters make psychological progress in this volume. These changes make the cast of supers more interesting and the action not as predictable since the changing psychology can result in surprise behavior.
If you like superheroes in any form, whether in media, science fiction or action-adventure then this is a good reading choice. The details of the partially-destroyed present-day Atlanta are particularly interesting to those who live or visit there, which is a surprising number of readers since Dragon*Con is held there. This is a fast-paced adventure with plenty of danger filled moments to keep you reading until the very last page.
It will be interesting to see the Thulian response to the attack in volume three, but we must wait until January 2014 for the release of Revolution.
Also coming to paperback this month from Baen is a reprint volume of classic science fiction from A.E. van Vogt, edited by Eric Flint and David Drake, which came out in hardcover back in 2006. Transgalactic contains Empire of the Atom and The Wizard of Linn which are set in a civilization which has fallen but still contains some remnants of science, and Mission to the Stars along with two short novels from the Ezwal series which are all space adventure.
These are all classic adventures which haven’t seen print in some years, so for classic science fiction fans this volume is a treat. Many of today’s readers have probably never read any of them, but they are all good stories with action, good characterization and that bit of a strange view of our civilization which is common to van Vogt. There are quite a few quirky characters in the fallen civilization novels and the Ezwal short novels have a very strange but interesting alien.
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Portal by Eric Flint and Ryk Spoor and House of Steel: The Honorverse Companion by David WeberPosted: 8 May, 2013
Portal (Baen, May 7 2013 hardcover) is the third volume of hard science fiction adventure from Eric Flint and Ryk Spoor following Boundary and Threshold.
The previous volume left the heroes crashed on Europa with no one near Earth knowing what happened to them, and the survivors did not know if there were any of their fellows remained alive on the ship still in orbit about the Jovian moon. This volume picks up directly from that point with communication being re-established and Earth trying to build a rescue ship. The survivors on Europa realize that it will take some political wrangling as well as many months so they decide to rescue themselves by taking the working parts of the two ships and putting them together to make one ship capable of returning to Earth.
This volume has some harrowing space action and some technical talk about orbits, ships, and the propulsion technology used. Also there is quite a bit of archaeology discussed, but of alien cultures not of Earth. The aliens mentioned in previous stories, the Bemmies, are also discussed a great deal in this volume.
The survivors on Europa put together housing and a centrifuge to survive until they can get the ship built. All the technical descriptions of this and the combined ship project are well done, with enough mechanics to be believable without burying the reader in mathematics.
This is a hard science fiction adventure with good characterization from two of Baen’s best writers, so lovers of hard science fiction, space adventure, or science fiction with highly-polished prose should give this one a try even if you missed the first volumes. While it is not necessary to have read the previous volumes to enjoy this one, they are well worth seeking out.
House of Steel: The Honorverse Companion (Baen, May 7, 2013 hardcover) from David Weber and BuNine is the newest Honorverse book. This volume contains a new short novel from Weber called I Will Build My House of Steel that covers the early days of the Manticoran Star Kingdom and the reign of King Roger, including a look at his death and how Queen Elizabeth III handled becoming monarch at a very young age.
It starts during Roger Winton’s time as a navy lieutenant and follows him through his meeting his future wife, his marriage, and the birth of his heir Elizabeth. We see the relationship of Elizabeth and her father as she grows up. This gives some insight into her motivation for her decisions regarding the investigation of his death, which we get some clues about in other Honorverse material.
This novel really gives Elizabeth and Roger more depth and fleshes out some information not known in detail by other characters. Given the importance of Elizabeth III plays in the more recent novels and the part she must play in the next one as Manticore and Haven fight the terrorists and the Solarian League, this novel gives important insight to what motivates her.
In the rest of the volume contains technical information about the Royal Manticoran Navy, Marine Corps, and Army, historical information, and information on the Protectorate of Grayson, including a wealth of information about the Grayson Space Navy and Army. Also included is information on the non-human sentient species in the Star Empire of Manticore.
The second half of the book provides a wealth of reference information which will be helpful to readers, both new and old. For those who have not read the series yet, or whose reading has gaps, this is a good way to see everything in overview. For those who have read everything it is a convenient way to refresh your memory on culture, ships and people who may not have been the center of a novel in many years.
2013 is the 20th anniversary of the Honorverse and BuNine is throwing a celebration November 1-3, 2013 by hosting the first all-Weber fan convention, HonorCon. Information can be found at www.honorcon.com.
Blood Trade (Roc, April 2, 2013) is the newest novel by Faith Hunter. It is the sixth novel featuring skinwalker Jane Yellowrock.
In this volume Jane and her work companions, the Younger brothers, return to Natchez, Mississippi. There is a Naturaleza vampire problem there again, and some friends from Jane’s past appear on the scene to cause additional complications.
The love triangle of Rick, Jane and Bruiser heats up when both guys are called in to assist on the case. Jane’s relationship with Evan, Angelina, and Molly moves slightly toward normal in this volume, so hopefully we will soon see them returning as regular supporting cast members.
Change also comes to the relationship between Jane and Beast as Jane starts to understand herself better. Jane’s skinwalker nature is revealed to some of her supporting cast so this changes their relationships and could lead to some interesting developments later.
The supporting characters all really shine in this volume with Eli, Alex, Rick, Bruiser, and Soul all having moments alone with Jane to tell her (and the reader) more about themselves. Jane continues to grow as a character, starting to learn more about her past and settling some issues from her time in the children’s home.
As usual for Faith’s books, this one moves quickly, with lots of action and weapon-play which results in many permanently dead vampires. This urban fantasy has just enough romance to be intriguing and enough weapons and fighting to satisfy action fans. Gun-loving guys, if you thought urban fantasy wasn’t for you, then you haven’t met Jane Yellowrock.
Review of The Heretic by Tony Daniel and David Drake
The Heretic (Baen, April 2, 2013) is the newest volume in the General series. In previous volumes, Raj Whitehall had been selected by the sentient battle computer Center to be the father of the future in a revived Federation. Then Raj and Center had succeeded on planet Belleview so they were copied into thousands of probes and sent into space. This volume tells of how they adopt a young local on planet Duisberg to start the cycle again.
The problem on Duisberg is that there is already a computer named Zentrum running the planet and the locals view it as a god. There are priest which worship it, follow its orders and do things to keep innovation from changing the technology level.
The volume is really a coming-of-age story for the young boy, Abel Dashian. At age six, while his father is meeting with the district priest, Abel opens a storehouse door and discovers a trove of forbidden holy objects called nishterlaub (things made of advanced metals and plastics). The probe which brought Center and Raj to Duisberg is among this trove. When Abel enters the storehouse, Raj and Center start talking to him and decide he is possibly the one they need. They enter his mind and adjust things so he can understand references to more modern technology and take him on a virtual experience of flying to show him his world.
Abel is so stubborn that he bashes himself on the head with a rock to get the voices out of his head, but all that does is make Center need to perform some brain-repair on him. While that is going on, Abel’s thoughts are sent inside Center where he can see a visual of Raj. The story follows Abel as he attends school and becomes a military cadet. He is sent out on patrol with the Scouts for the first time when he is twelve. The volume follows his progress to adulthood and higher rank in the military. Raj and Center need him to be in a position that he can change things when Zentrum decides to make a deal with barbarians in order to keep the technology level down.
It is not necessary to have read previous volumes to like and understand this one. It is very plot-oriented and stays focused on Abel with the AIs only occasionally intruding into his thoughts. This volume shares some concepts with previous ones, mainly the Raj and Center influence, the drive to change the society to make it ready for contact and the military battles. Abel is sort of like Raj in the early books, in that his tactics look at a bigger picture than most of the other officers. He usually comes out ahead and sometimes does something totally unexpected by the enemy (Redlanders on this world) because he thinks differently due to the influence of the AIs.
Abel is very likable, interesting and you really care that he is trying to survive in a world where the powers that be are manipulated by a control-freak AI. The supporting characters, particularly the priests who befriend Abel, are also well-rounded and interesting. There are some “becoming-a-man” scenes in a pleasure house which are amusing, and reveal something of the crazy culture on Duisberg as well, so watch for those as you read.
If you like your military SF to have an individual perspective, if you like land battles, or you just like well-written heroic adventures then this book is for you.
Review of Mirage by Jenn Reese (Candlewick Press, March 5, 2013).
Mirage is the second volume of the Above World middle grades science fiction series by Jenn Reese.
Most middle grades books in the science fiction and fantasy area are fantasy; an actual science fiction adventure without fantasy elements is rare. This series is science fiction set on an Earth where groups of humans were adapted for different extreme environments because of planet-wide ecological issues. Different groups of people live under the ocean, in the high mountains, and in the desert. The main character of the series is Aluna, a girl from an isolationist undersea community. She decides that the elders will never solve the community’s problems so she must do it. In the first volume she is too young to have a tail instead of legs, but when she reaches 13 and can swallow the seed which will change her legs into a tail, her lack of respect for authority gets her kicked out of the coming-of-age ceremony. She simply takes her seed with her and runs away to the surface. As the second book opens, she and her friends are traveling in the desert after having defeated the evil clone man who was restricting the power to the underwater cities of Aluna’s people.
They go to warn the desert Equians of the evil clones who are trying to take control of the various cities. Things don’t go as planned since the clone is already there and entrenched with the leadership. The group picks up some new friends and has another trip through the desert to another desert city but it is inhabited by Serpenti. Dash had made friends with one when the Equians captured a couple of Serpenti, so they are given refuge and healed rather than killed. There is a big gathering of Equians where the leader of all the tribes will be determined, so all the young people and their friends attend and take part. Will the evil clone be revealed as the dishonorable woman she is or will the High Khan be fooled?
This book is an exciting science fiction adventure with horses, martial arts, geeks who repair technology, and young teen characters who bond together and make their own family. Also Aluna and Dash seem to have a bit of love interest starting up. The cover art on both volumes would never have led us to pick them up as the designs in no way depict science fiction, but because Reese’s name was known to us from a previous adult book with a martial arts heroine that we really liked (Jade Tiger, published by Juno in 2007), we saw her announcement on Facebook and went in search of them. You should, too.
The female lead is strong and an independent thinker who realizes that the adults are wrong to not seek help from other groups. All the adults seem to be bound by honor and they nearly let honor cause them to kill young teens who disagree with them. The martial arts training Aluna does as she moves around between groups is well done and realistic. The psychology of Aluna in regards to her training was particularly well done, and rang completely true with Your Humble Reviewers, who have some years of martial arts experience themselves. The science is not dealt with in-depth because of the age level, but given the far future time period and that everything was done by gene modification, nothing jumped out as being implausible.
A science fiction adventure with a martial arts heroine who rides an intelligent horse and has a boyfriend who wields a big sword? What young person wouldn’t love it? Aluna’s two techie best friends are also a couple, one a winged girl from the mountain area and the other a younger boy from Aluna’s village who has followed her across the world. All four are strong and interesting characters that have formed sibling-like bonds as they have traveled, fought, and rescued each other.
Review of The Golden Age of Death by Amber Benson (Ace Feb 26, 2013)
This is the fifth volume of Amber Benson’s stories about Calliope Reaper-Jones (Callie), the daughter of the Grim Reaper. The Reaper himself is deceased, making Callie the CEO of his company Death, Inc. Callie is like many 20-somethings, with worries about her job and its future, her family and her boyfriend.
However, her job is now to be Death and to survive the attacks of the ender of Death who killed her father. When the situation in the afterlife is so bad that the ender of death wants to ally with Death, then the whole universe must be on the verge of self-destruction.
Her family and her boyfriend want to help, but they can’t cooperate, so instead of heeding the advice of Jarvis the butler they all do their own thing, causing an even more complicated situation that results in more deaths.
Callie is starting to get the hang of being the boss so she gives her family a proper earful but still has a blind spot about her boyfriend Daniel. She does hear the truth about him from a friend but still doesn’t believe it. Seeing the good side of everyone may not be a survival trait for Death.
Callie and her supporting cast are well developed characters who will draw you in to their crazy funny world. The afterlife run as a company? Death living in Newport, Rhode Island with a hell hound puppy who talks? Benson has created a profoundly insane world, but it is immensely entertaining, with hot characters of both sexes and many strange couples of several persuasions.
It is very tightly plotted and is written as a mystery with no one knowing all the pieces until the end. Without the tight plotting all the groups of characters running around in this volume would be confusing, but Benson manages to run the groups into each other and separate characters off in ways which keep things moving.
As the title of this volume implies, Callie reaches an agreement which will end some of the fighting, but of course different enemies will appear in the future. Both her mom and her sister appear to have found boyfriends so the family drama will now have additional characters. Hopefully we will see more from crazy Calliope in the near future.
Review of The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
The Cadet of Tildor is a new Penguin teen fantasy book which came out January 10, 2013.
This is a teen coming-of-age tale featuring a female military academy cadet named Renee de Winter. She is a nobleman’s daughter who wants to prove her place is with the elite soldiers, she tries her hardest to survive to graduation even when downgraded on her fighting skills. Will she be one of the two cadets cut at the end of the term?
Renee is a small, quick female warrior who at the beginning of the story tries to use strength and power to overcome opponents, as she did when she and the male cadets were younger and closer to the same size. Now that they are all almost to adulthood, this tactic does not work. A new instructor makes her see she must adjust to the new size differences with a change in tactics, although at first even though she can execute the moves, she does not see it as a proper way to win because she misunderstands the purpose of the student battles: it is not about physical power but about using your head to win. It takes some time and some maturity gained through some actual combat to get the concept through Renee’s head. Her relationship with the new instructor is a complex one, and there are hints that, perhaps when there is no longer a student/teacher taboo, things might take a romantic turn.
The fight sequences are detailed enough to make them believable without appearing over-researched. The different fighters use styles which strongly reflect their personalities, and Renee is shown to be able to read them all well enough to guess her opponent’s tactics in most cases. This should be the case with fighters who have trained frequently for several years together, but many books don’t contain this idea, so kudos to Lidell for well-done training group relationships.
The universe Lidell has depicted has tight constraints on magic because mages are born not made and untrained ones are rather wild and destructive until they can contain their magic. The requirement that all mages register by the age of thirteen is, however, a point of contention in Tildor and finding unregistered mages who do not fit the destructive image portrayed by the government puts her in a moral quandary. Should she turn unregistered mages in if they are helping the community, pose no danger and are trying to train others to not be dangerous either?
Lidell used her horseback riding and first aid knowledge to good effect without too much detail to distract readers, but enough that the horses have their own personalities in some cases and that the very injured act appropriately.
For lovers of a good warrior’s tale this is a good read for adults or teens. Some of the physical and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters would certainly make this book an interesting one for group or family discussions. This is an excellent first novel and hopefully we will see more from Alex Lidell.
Content note for parents: This teen book has slavery, torture and fight scenes which might upset a sensitive reader.
Review of David Weber’s Shadow of Freedom
This is the newest Honor Harrington book, but since this volume depicts events which are occurring simultaneously with those in A Rising Thunder (the previous volume), Honor herself is not present.
The story in Shadow of Freedom is told from three main viewpoints: Michelle Henke and various components of her Tenth Fleet, Anton Zilwicki and Victor Cachat plus their shipmates, and the Mesan Alignment headquarters personnel. We see how Anton and Victor make the decision to head to Haven (they show up there in A Rising Thunder) and the repercussions of the peace treaty that results from Eloise Pritchart and Elizabeth believing the info about the Mesan Alignment, both in the Tenth Fleet and in Mesan Alignment headquarters. The newsfeeds are given the information about virus-based nanotech assassinations, the two new types of drive and how the Mesan Alignment has been planning for 600 years and has been playing Manticore against Haven so everyone will be weak and easy for the Alignment to conquer. This of course quickly gets back to the Mesan Alignment, causing them to get into massive security breach mode.
Admiral Gold Peake is in the Spindle system at the beginning of the book. After deploying light attack craft (LACs) and dispatch boats to all the systems in the Talbott Quadrant, she heads to the Montana system and sends the other group of capital ships to Tillerman. Because of the attack on the Manticore System by both the Mesan Aligment and the Solarian League Navy (SLN), all Manticoran merchant vessels have been pulled from Solarian space (this was discussed in the previous volume). The governor of the Saltash System does not believe the reports he has been getting about SLN surrendering and/or getting wiped out by the Royal Manticoran Navy, so he impounds some Manticoran merchant vessels. Henke sends a few ships to change his mind or liberate the merchies by force.
Soon after this is resolved she gets information that the Mesan Alignment has been fomenting rebellion on planets in the Talbott sector and the Madras Quadrant: the Mesans are arming local rebel groups while claiming to represent Manticore and promising Manticoran naval support when the groups are ready to rise in revolt. To prevent a public relations disaster in her quadrant, Henke decides that any of the rebel groups who actually manage to make contact with the fleet will be treated as if they had been in contact with Manticore all along. This sends ships to the Mobius system when the Mobius Liberation Front manages to get 2 messengers off to the fleet. Also the reader sees the setup for a similar situation in the Seraphim system in about 90 days.
This volume lets readers see some of what was going on in other parts of the universe while Honor was doing her thing in Haven and Manticore in the previous book. Familiar supporting cast are seen, like Anton Zilwicki and his daughter, Admiral Gold Peak, and the government of Spindle (where they have 450,000 POWs still from the battle in the previous book). Also we meet a marine with a treecat in the Tenth Fleet who acts as Henke’s lie detector and part of her security, who hopefully will be given a larger role in later books. This volume basically fleshes out the supporting cast who cannot be seen when Honor is somewhere else and whose stories do not fit in the mainline Honor volume, sort of A Rising Thunder, Volume Two.
There are plenty of space battles in this volume, although most use only a few Manticoran ships, and marines see action in several engagements on the ground. Some new supporting cast members are introduced on planets we have not seen before, like Cinnamon in the Saltash System, Mobius, and Seraphim who hopefully will reappear as the plot continues on their planets. The most interesting element in the volume has to be the in-depth treatment of Michelle Henke, as herself, as an admiral in charge of the Tenth Fleet, and as the Queen’s cousin. She has always been there as Honor’s friend, and in most of the volumes has been present either on Honor’s ship or in her fleet until Honor gave her a reaming out for not living up to her potential. In this volume, she is really the central character as Admiral Gold Peake of the Tenth Fleet, much like Honor is in most books from this universe. She is an interesting character who hasn’t received as much attention as she deserves, most likely for lack of space, since Weber tends to run long not short in most Honorverse volumes.
If you like space battles, or intrigue and interstellar politics then this volume is for you. The bad guys are too numerous to count and the stupidity of the Solarians is off the scale, but it is a fast moving well plotted volume which gives you a more complete picture of the state of the Honorverse.
If you are interested in the Honorverse, join David Weber in celebrating 20 years of Honor Harrington at HonorCon 2013 in Greenville, South Carolina on November 1-3, 2013. You can find more information at www.honorcon.com .
Review of Sarah A. Hoyt’s A Few Good Men
This is a book from the Darkship universe which overlaps the timeline of Darkship Renegades. The main character is Luce, or Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva, the son of Good Man Keeva. He is released from prison by a break-in after spending 14 years in solitary. He makes his way to his father’s house after learning that his father and little brother are dead, in order to assert his right to be Good Man. With the help of the Keeva hereditary retainers, the Remys, Luce takes charge of Olympus Seacity. The Remys are the family of Luce’s deceased partner Ben. Luce doesn’t really want to be Good Man, because of the experience of what his father did to him, but he realizes that if he does not do it, then other Good Men will take the territory, execute the Remys and kill many of the citizens.
As Luce learns the truth about his father and the other Good Men, he really wants to change things. When given the opportunity to help with a rebellion he agrees, even though this will bring war. Luce does his part and has to spend months away from his friend Nat, doing public relations work.
Luce is a very tortured, reluctant hero whose journey is filled with psychological episodes in which he hears his dead partner Ben. Eventually Ben’s ghost and Nat convince Luce that acting as Good Man and supporting people’s rights is the best choice even if the consequence is war. This eases Luce’s conscience about taking his father’s title, but he is not really leading, only taking orders/suggestions from his retainers. So at first he is being used by the rebellion, but gradually he pays more attention to what is going on around him and actually takes charge of things.
The politics of earth and the inner workings of the rebellion give the reader a much better view of Earth society than what is depicted in the Darkship novels. This book has only one main character instead of the two in the Darkship books, and Hoyt appears to have an easier time keeping the plot moving with only the one to worry about. Luce is a character you care about much more than the Darkship characters because his personality is much more likable. He is a people person and is motivated more by helping others than by selfish reasons. He loves the Remys and shows this in the way he follows their suggestions without thought, rescues them from the bad guys and leads them in the rebellion. The way his character grew from taking orders to giving the orders would never have worked if Nat’s parents had not been parental figures to Luce, whom he trusted and loved instinctively even when his memories of them were faint because of his time in prison.
It will be interesting to see how the events in this book are viewed by the citizens of Eden, because now humans on earth have more rights than they did, but it is still a far cry from Eden’s combination of anarchy and dictatorship by the Energy Board. Hopefully Thena and Kit can bridge the two societies to help each other get everyone’s basic needs met.
This is an excellent choice for readers of science fiction adventure with an interesting likable hero. The plot is exciting and fast moving with interesting locations described on a post war future earth. It is not as dark as some post war fiction, but not a happy place to live either. The secondary characters are fleshed out, particularly the Remys. Hopefully, we will get to see how Luce and Nat deal with the aftermath of the war and see how they manage their dream of relocating.
GBLT Content Note: Luce is a gay man who is imprisoned along with his partner because his father does not want people to know his son is gay (because of cloning, the father apparently thinks this reflects on his own sexuality). The partner dies while in prison. Being gay is illegal in this universe, but Luce uses his influence to change this. Luce, Ben, Nat and Max are all gay characters that are treated by Hoyt as part of a family group where everyone knows but no one cares (except the deceased father). The love shown by the couples in the book is done very well, in the sense that it is the same as that of different sex couples. There are no depictions of sex, but it is implied to have occurred. The relationship of Luce and Nat is very special and done very well because both are grieving a lost partner who was a family member of the other (Max was Luce’s brother and Ben was Nat’s uncle) so you can tell they are attracted to each other and spend a great deal of time together but both are too wounded to speak of or act on their feelings until very late in the book. Nat’s siblings help Luce pull out of his depression when he has not heard from Nat for several months during the war, so it is clear they accept Luce as part of their lives before Nat and Luce actually come out and say anything. Obviously, Luce and Nat’s stubbornness to discuss the issue did not prevent their true feelings from being seen by observant younger siblings. So this book has positive, realistic depictions of gay couples and their families regardless of the inclusion of gay=prisoner at the start of the book.