Wow. I loved this book. It's got everything the first three books had in terms of action and intense storytelling, plus one of the most beautiful relaWow. I loved this book. It's got everything the first three books had in terms of action and intense storytelling, plus one of the most beautiful relationship developments I've read in a long time. Echo Company gets a new sergeant, one a lot tougher than my beloved Sergeant Hanson, and it's not an easy transition because Hanson is still there and marginalized for being black (the new guy, slangily referred to as Top, actually calls him a "colored boy" and it's infuriating. I don't really care that it's realistic, because the story has done such a good job of showing the company coming together and overcoming racial differences). Fortunately, Top ends up being as competent as they could hope for, and even a little sympathetic. Not much. He's a lifer, and they're tough compared to soldiers like Michael who are desperate to complete their year of service without dying or being permanently crippled.
The first half of the book brings home the horrors of war in a way the previous books haven't, which is saying a lot considering the first three books didn't shy from showing how awful and terrifying it is. In this case, Echo Company has to help establish a camp, and they're constantly under attack. The order for them to "stand down," to go to relative safety at Chu Lai, comes as both a relief and a terror--terror because it seems too good to be true, and the whole time they're traveling I was on edge thinking now would be a good time for the whole convoy to be turned to paste by the NVA. But they make it, and after getting over the shock of returning to "civilization," it's time for the second half: the tentative reaching out that Michael and Rebecca engage in.
After the events of 'Tis the Season, there was really no reason for Michael to expect Rebecca to even remember him as more than the guy who nearly shot her. Their first correspondence when he was still in the field cracked me up, with Rebecca writing a stiffly formal letter of thanks and Michael responding with something snarky as is his wont, only to get back a letter with a single exclamation point in the center. But it's better when the two of them finally meet again, because neither of them is sure what they want, and their meeting begins with awkward hesitations and insecurity as both try to find common ground. She's a lieutenant, he's a private, and they're not supposed to fraternize, but it's clear from the beginning that they each need something more than romance from the other. My heart ached for them, both wounded in different ways. That Rebecca isn't ready to tell him what really happened to her in the jungle made a lot of sense, but what she does tell him sets the next book up for more revelations. The whole thing was just beautiful, and painful, and left me wanting more.
As usual, the secondary characters are brilliant, and one of my favorite parts happens at the end of the book, where we see all the guys relaxing in their different ways: Viper is a comatose drunk, silent even as he relaxes; Finnegan gets into three fights; Snoopy is laid-back and ready to eat as much as he can. I'm intrigued by the Major in charge of the nurses, who is tough but understanding when she catches Michael coming back from Rebecca's room in the morning (yes, they sleep together; no, they don't have sex) and I want to see more of her in the next book. Having read the first few pages of The Road Home before embarking on the whole series, I know she plays an important role, and I'm looking forward to it. As I look back over these four books, I can see how the momentum of the plot has been driving toward this fifth book, and I just hope it's as good as I anticipate....more
This third book in the Echo Company series goes in a different direction, with the main character being Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips, a nurse in VietnaThis third book in the Echo Company series goes in a different direction, with the main character being Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips, a nurse in Vietnam. She's cheerful, friendly, a little goofy, and lovable, and I was interested in her immediately. After some establishing scenes, however, everything goes wrong when she illicitly goes along on a rescue mission when no military corpsman is around. What happens next changes Rebecca forever.
I wouldn't have been so easy-going about not seeing more of the adventures of PFC Michael Jennings and crew if I didn't already know that Rebecca is the main character in the fifth book, The Road Home, and therefore important. And by the end, when the two characters are brought together, it's very interesting to see Echo Company through someone else's eyes. Rebecca is tough as well as kind, as soft-hearted in her way as Michael is in his, and I loved reading about her.
Most of this book is worthy of a spoiler tag, which I will now provide: (view spoiler)[Rebecca's stand-off with a VC "soldier" (since she's uncertain what the boy's relationship to the enemy is, other than that he clearly wants to kill her) is one of the most incredibly tense scenes I've ever read. She's exhausted and in pain, terrified, and at the same time afraid for her enemy as well. Her reaction to finally killing him is perfect and perfectly in character. One of the things I anticipate is seeing her again and learning how she finally copes with having taken a life. The ending, where her captain and her major come together to protect her from the fallout that would certainly come if her gunshot wound was known, was emotionally satisfying, but it's clear Rebecca's soul is going to need as much healing as her body. (hide spoiler)]
Again, this was an exciting read, and I really want to know what happens next--particularly if Michael and Rebecca ever meet again.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This follow-up to Welcome to Vietnam is literally a follow-up because it happens immediately after the ending of the first book. Much as I enjoyed it,This follow-up to Welcome to Vietnam is literally a follow-up because it happens immediately after the ending of the first book. Much as I enjoyed it, it didn't feel as if it stood on its own, but was rather the second part of the first book. There's more of what I loved about Welcome to Vietnam, including the fantastic descriptions, the great friendships, and Michael's unique and compelling voice. It's not until the end, during the assault on the titular hill, that the book really comes into its own--that Michael comes into his own. He's terrified, he thinks the whole thing is stupid because they're being ground to powder by the enemy, yet he takes over when there's no one else to give orders and comes up with the tactics that win them the battle. His relationship (if you can call animosity that) with Lieutenant Kendrick is probably one of my favorites in the book, as the two of them have to work out a grudging acceptance of the other's strengths. I can't wait to read the next....more
This is really excellent young adult historical fiction about the Vietnam War, told through the eyes of PFC Michael "Meat" Jennings, who is drafted anThis is really excellent young adult historical fiction about the Vietnam War, told through the eyes of PFC Michael "Meat" Jennings, who is drafted and sent to Vietnam even though he hates the Army ("Fuck the Army," FTA, is a frequent refrain with him). The story is very simple: Michael is assigned to a company and gets to know his squad mates and even to make friends, though he's warned by Viper, one of the experienced soldiers, not to get too close to anyone because death can happen at any time. There are moments of pure terror and moments of hilarity, and Emerson is fantastic at evoking the Vietnamese setting, how hot and wet and miserable it is. There's a constant sense of immediacy that's just great.
I loved Michael, even though he's remarkably unlovable. He's (reasonably) afraid all the time and covers it with bravado, he's hurt because his girlfriend dumped him cruelly, he misses his family and he's convinced he's a coward. And then, when the worst happens, he's the one who steps up and deals with it. He doesn't seem to realize that he's a natural leader, and I think it would take more than one year-long tour of duty to really turn him into that, but the quality is there.
I also loved the other characters, who have their own issues, particularly Sergeant Hanson, and if he dies I will cry big tears of misery because he's so great. Snoopy, Michael's closest friend, would be the Designated Sidekick if his comical actions didn't cover a warm and compassionate heart. The greatest tension in this book comes from knowing that any of them could be killed at any moment, and Viper might as well have been speaking to the reader when he warns Michael about having too good a friend.
I'm honestly surprised that Scholastic picked this series up. It is as profane and violent as you'd expect a story about soldiers to be, with one particularly gruesome scene and a lot of swearing. I predict this will be another of the books I have trouble explaining why it's YA to parents, but it totally is--it's all about becoming a man, about facing the greatest challenge I think anyone can be forced to face and learning who you are as a result. Excellent story, and I can't wait to read the rest....more
This review contains spoilers I couldn't put behind brackets because they come so early in the book and affect so much of what happens later. If you hThis review contains spoilers I couldn't put behind brackets because they come so early in the book and affect so much of what happens later. If you haven't read it, and you intend to, (and you should), stop now. Fair warning.
The Echo Company series has been building toward this final volume, and it is a phenomenal ending. I don't know if I'd say that no war story is complete without an account of what happens when the war is over, when the soldier goes marching home, but it's certainly the case here.
The book is divided into two sections, "The War" and "The World," and we're back to Rebecca's perspective in the Evac. hospital. Given how until the very end of Stand Down the series has focused on the fighting, this seems like a strange choice, but it becomes immediately clear that the author intends to show that war is just as devastating for the ones patching up those wounded and dying kids as it is for their patients. The events are post-Tet and the hospital is overwhelmed by wave after wave of injured soldiers, to the point that Rebecca (still wounded after the events of 'Tis the Season) is popping painkillers and stimulants to a dangerous extent. The descriptions of the ER are devastating; there's one line about a pile of amputated limbs in one corner, left there because no one could be spared to take them away. Rebecca, who still hasn't told anyone what really happened in the jungle on Christmas Day, has friends, but not close ones; she's developing an unexpected relationship with Major Doyle, chief of the nurses; and she has her correspondence with Michael to hang onto. He's a better correspondent than she is, writing nearly every day, and thanks to his letters he remains a strong presence in the first part of the novel. It's fun, and a little heartbreaking, to see Rebecca falling in love almost against her will, and for about the first quarter of the book, White is setting up her players for what comes next.
And what comes next is both terrible and completely expected: the major is the one who tells Rebecca that Michael is there, that his leg has been amputated, and even though I knew Echo Company couldn't escape this unscathed, White did a clever and nasty thing by killing off a couple of the men before this. It was a horrible shock even though part of me expected it, made more horrible by the fact that my beloved Sergeant Hanson was nearly killed by the same explosion. And Rebecca is now in the position of knowing better how to deal with that kind of injury as a nurse but not as a girlfriend, if that's even what she is, with Michael pushing her away and eventually saying a final goodbye. It's brutal and heartrending and perfect.
But the war isn't over for Rebecca, and she has several months left before she can return to the World and finish her tour of duty stateside. Her relationship with the major continues to develop, and I think I like their prickly friendship better than any of the other ones (except, of course, Michael). The major, who doesn't act like a therapist, nevertheless does more for healing Rebecca's spiritual wounds than a team of psychiatrists could. White glosses over the time between the major's leaving and Rebecca's final days in Vietnam, which works really well because what matters now is her being back in the World.
Throughout the series, that's how the soldiers and the nurses refer to home--Vietnam is its own place that is so alien it's almost not real, and I think for many of the grunts that accounts for how they behave there. That's not to excuse the brutality Snoopy refers to when he visits Rebecca on his way back the World (and can I just say that Snoopy, of all people, should not have had to witness the things those men did? He puts up a good front, but he's a gentle soul, and I wanted to weep for him when he tells Rebecca what little he's able to say about those days, including that Michael and Sergeant Hanson would have stopped them) but it's easy to imagine men feeling so detached that they could begin to think that the rules were different in the war.
At any rate, Rebecca's return to the World begins on the airplane, where a man puts up a fuss about having to sit next to a veteran, and I think for any young reader, raised in a time where even people who despise our wars can talk about respecting the soldiers who fight them, this is going to be a nasty surprise. I'm not old enough to have any memories of how polarizing the Vietnam War was, but I've read enough to know that veterans of that war weren't welcomed home with cheers and apple pie. It's infuriating to read how Rebecca (and later Michael) are treated, and when the stewardess on that flight asks her to change seats--and shows her to first class--it was a greater relief than it would otherwise have been.
In our era, Rebecca and Michael would both have been diagnosed with PTSD. In their time, Rebecca only knows that she no longer fits in. What she's seen is so horrific she can't bring herself to burden her friends and family with it. Her parents are understanding, as best they can be, but even they seem just to be waiting for her to get over it. The family dynamic is complicated and gives the story strength: her brother fled to Canada to avoid the draft, her father convinced her not to become a doctor on the grounds that it was too hard for a woman (he explains this later, and White's talent is such that his explanation is satisfying, even if I don't agree with it), her mother is trying to keep the family together and make up for everyone's shortcomings. And then there's Rebecca, whose old friends either don't understand her or hate her, struggling alone with only the major's letters to remind her that she isn't the only one. That the major seems to be fitting into "civilian" life doesn't make Rebecca feel worse; I think to Rebecca it's the promise that this isn't going to last forever. And I think it's at the heart of why Rebecca, having gone to visit her first, sets out across the country, looking for Michael.
This last part of the novel is hard for me to describe. On the one hand, it parallels the sort of awkward trying-to-connect we saw in Stand Down, but now there's a real barrier that's far harder to get past than the simpler issue of boy meeting girl. Michael is crippled, and his first reaction to seeing Rebecca show up at his house is to tell her in very cruel terms to go away. Personally, I thought Rebecca should have understood why he couldn't bear to see her, but she's so well established a character that it fit perfectly with who she is. And it was hopeful that Michael had told his family about her. But the way in which they finally come together is so beautiful I don't think I can do it justice. Maybe, at the end, this is just Happily For Now--they come from such different places in the World--but I like to think that what they need from each other is more important than the differences between them.
When a war is so despised by so many, civilian life for its veterans becomes a continuation of that war, complicating the already difficult task of returning to a life they no longer fit. This series began with the very simple story of one young man fighting a war he hated, but what makes it remarkable is how each successive story has built on the one before, gradually creating a picture of the horrors of war that culminates here. Ending the story not in Vietnam, but in the United States, makes those horrors even more real by showing how they follow Rebecca and Michael home. This book is aptly titled, it may well be my favorite book of the year, and I highly recommend this series....more
Okay, I have a confession. I didn't read this book for the longest time because the print copy has a picture of some young man who TOTALLY does not maOkay, I have a confession. I didn't read this book for the longest time because the print copy has a picture of some young man who TOTALLY does not match my image of Shevraeth, staring off into the middle distance as if he has just cut one and is hoping no one notices. My apologies to the young man in the picture.
I love prequels. I love the narrative naivete that has the characters saying things where the reader knows what's going to happen but the characters don't. I love getting a different perspective on later events. There's just something about the structure of a prequel that I enjoy, which is why I was so angry about the renumbering of the Narnia novels that suggests The Magician's Nephew is appropriate to read first. But that's another review.
That said, I had some difficulty getting into this book. Not only is it a prequel to Crown Duel, it's in a sense a sequel to other stories set in this world, none of which I have read, and there were times when I felt frustrated and left out and wondering if I was expected to know this back story. The book skips around a lot in POV, some of which is necessary, some of which contributed to the aforementioned sense of being left out, and there were some scenes I could have done without entirely (especially Senrid and Sartora talking about their mutual history). It didn't help that I was reading the first quarter of the book in very small pieces and lacked the necessary narrative flow.
Once I got fully into it, I was really hooked. I like military fiction and I loved Shevraeth's abrupt immersion in it (yes, I'm going to call him by the name everyone else does, and I haven't missed that this is also the name he's known by all the way through Crown Duel--his identification with the land he's responsible for is, I think, possible to read as a reminder that he's going to be responsible for all of Remalna someday). I particularly like that the story didn't take the route of "new boy gets hazed and then proves that he's the best so they respect him now." Shevraeth ends up being good at some things and lousy at others, and he makes a place for himself mainly by just being who he is.
I liked his inner journey more than his military journey mainly because we get to see how Vidanric Renselaeus became who he is. In Crown Duel we only see the end product, and seen in that isolation he's almost too perfect, too good a strategist and potential king. Here we see his failures and especially the challenges that make him realize that he cannot afford the luxury of not becoming a leader. This is where we see that Shevraeth was turning into the next king long before he realizes it himself.
Shevraeth's relationship with the lovely and talented Senelac was really well done, even though I kept wanting to shake the girl and say "What are you THINKING, this man is MARRIED to SOMEONE ELSE!" because I identify far, far too closely with Meliara. It was just heartbreaking to watch him fall in love for the first time and know that love was doomed--and doomed not because we know (because this is a prequel) that he ends up with another woman, but because he and Senelac simply can't be together because of who they both are. So sweet, and so sad, when he cries because that relationship is over.
One of my favorite parts, and the main reason why I enjoyed the POV-hopping even though normally I don't (and there's a part of me that would like to have seen this a more tightly plotted novel) is the development of Russav, who doesn't get nearly enough screen time in Crown Duel because it's told through Mel's POV. His friendship with Shevraeth is so fun, and Russav is great as a window through which we see Galdran's court. I loved that he came to meet Shevraeth when he was returning home because we got to see more of them together.
I'm positive I'll enjoy this even more the next time I read it. I have the feeling there are things I missed because it is sort of large and sweeping, so I look forward to the next time around. ...more
I wasn't as excited about the last two books in the series, despite my enjoyment of the characters, because I signed up for Napoleonic War alternate hI wasn't as excited about the last two books in the series, despite my enjoyment of the characters, because I signed up for Napoleonic War alternate history fiction and wasn't as interested in Laurence and Temeraire's wandering around Australia and the Americas. This was a welcome return (at least half of it was) to the War, and Napoleon's aggression on Russia.
The first half, though, is a digression into Japan which I also enjoyed because I like reading about Japanese culture in the 19th century, and Novik succeeds in making her alternate history reflect some of the isolationism of that time. Unfortunately, she also gives Laurence amnesia (he loses eight years of his memory), which struck me as sort of unnecessary to the plot. It effectively resets his relationship with Temeraire, since they've only been together for five years, so we're treated to the poignancy of Laurence having to build a new relationship with his best friend and discover everything, good and bad, that happened to him during that time. (Okay. I admit to being amused at his momentary belief that he's Emily Roland's father.) But that's really all it does, increase the tension in sort of a gimmicky way. It's a relief when his memory begins to come back.
My other problem is the one I've had since book six, which is that the plot has become a series of short adventures strung together like beads, none of which are long enough to support a full novel and each of which is only tenuously connected to the other. This book has two sections, the first being the escape from Japan and the second being Laurence's mission to bring hundreds of dragons from China to bolster the Russian army. Yes, they're connected, but very loosely, and I find I'm dissatisfied with stories that are less plot than mere connected events.
So why four stars? Because, as usual, Novik's characters are superb and her story, irrespective of my complaints about how it's structured, is exciting. We see old friends and make new ones--I didn't think I'd like General Chu much, but he ended up being one of my favorites. And Iskierka, who drove me crazy when she first appeared and now just makes me laugh, makes the first part of the story really interesting. I look forward to finding out what comes out of her and Temeraire's egg--her matter-of-fact revelation that she's carrying it was wonderful. As usual, the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire carries the story in places where it might otherwise sag. And Novik ends the novel in a way that left me eager for the next volume, something I couldn't say about either of the two previous ones. Complaints aside, I liked it very much....more
This book has about a million authors, but it doesn't read like it does. It's also got about a million viewpoint characters (well, more like eight) soThis book has about a million authors, but it doesn't read like it does. It's also got about a million viewpoint characters (well, more like eight) so I had my usual negative reaction to being dragged out of one story I loved into another one I wasn't so interested in. In general, I did like most of the plotlines, though I don't care for authors introducing new POV characters in the middle or even near the end of a book; it feels like it dilutes the story. On the other hand, one of those new POV characters became one of my favorites, so I'm not exactly being consistent. There's a lot going on here, and complicated fiction always has a chance of complicating itself right out of a reader's interest, but I think it succeeds as a whole.
This is a book about war--that's really its most notable characteristic. The authors are all, as far as I can tell, interested in medieval warfare and weaponry, and if you care about that, you're going to love this book. (There's a fight scene that goes on for THREE scene changes.) It's a world-spanning book, so you get martial techniques from Vikings and Franks and Mongols and even a lost Japanese warrior. The combinations make for some very interesting fight scenes. Despite all this, the authors haven't lost sight of characterization, and manage to keep their characters distinct and interesting. I'm particularly fond of the Mongol tribesman sent to keep the Khan from drinking himself to death. Now there's a thankless job for you. Kudos to whoever keeps the team's writing styles uniform, and I'm looking forward to the next volume....more
Like Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold is much shorter than the other Temeraire books. When I first read Tongues of Serpents in 2010, I wondered iLike Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold is much shorter than the other Temeraire books. When I first read Tongues of Serpents in 2010, I wondered if it was the first half of a novel that was too long to publish in one volume, but now it's clear that they're both independent but short novels.
Part of the four-star rating is the very-probably-wrong feeling I have that this book, like the previous one, is too short, but it's really that it feels as if Temeraire and Lawrence have been sidelined...which, of course, they have. The exploration of the alternate-history Incan Empire is still very interesting, particularly the idea that the Incan dragons are essentially owners of the humans. I also like that Iskierka, whose wild nature has been a danger to everyone around her from the beginning, finally goes to such extremes that Granby gives her the metaphorical spanking she really needs. Less pleasant is that (view spoiler)[RILEY IS DEAD! How sad is it that I kept hoping that he'd somehow, I don't know, escaped the explosion and the sinking ship and swam three hundred miles to the mainland...fine, okay, I'm sad and pathetic. But I liked him so much, and he provided an important link between Lawrence and the Navy. (hide spoiler)]
The ending of the novel makes it clear that Lawrence and Temeraire's exile is at an end, and I look forward to their rejoining the war in the next book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Victorious is a good conclusion to Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series, turning it from being about a war against a human enemy to being the beginniVictorious is a good conclusion to Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series, turning it from being about a war against a human enemy to being the beginning of a conflict with an alien one. There were a few times that that turning point felt a little anticlimactic because almost all the fighting that brings an end to the war happens in the first five books, but the final battle in the Syndic home system was plenty serious enough to at least make the Alliance victory satisfying. Although (view spoiler)[seriously, John Geary, alien ships pop up on your radar and multiply in the blink of an eye and "false image" *isn't* the first thing that comes to mind? I'll give you the insanely fast maneuvering, but really, I'm almost embarrassed for you (hide spoiler)]. I also don't really care about the resolution of Geary and Desjani's relationship, mainly because Campbell had to do a lot of retconning after book two to establish that it even existed. I think I've been waiting, all along, for them to finally get together and move on; I expect the sequel series to be more satisfying in that respect. (I don't consider this a spoiler. You all knew it was coming.)
Victorious was good on its own, but I think it's even better as a lead-in to the next series, where humanity (led, of course, by John Geary, and they're lucky to have him) goes head-to-head against the aliens that effectively started the Alliance/Syndic war in the first place. Assuming that the aliens have heads, or bodies of any kind, because otherwise humanity is going to have a hard time finding a place to kick.["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's book five of the series and the Alliance fleet is within spitting distance of home territory, if anyone in the fleet could spit several dozen ligIt's book five of the series and the Alliance fleet is within spitting distance of home territory, if anyone in the fleet could spit several dozen light years away. This was the first time I really felt that the fleet was in dire straits in terms of resources; they're limping along on 35% fuel reserves, the auxiliaries are having trouble keeping up with the weapons needs, and at this point I began to wonder if Jack Geary was going to come into Alliance territory with a fleet at all. (view spoiler)[Yes, he does. (hide spoiler)] Despite this shortage, the story's tension comes more from rooting out the remaining traitors within the fleet and dealing with further revelations about the unseen alien enemy. Overall I'm satisfied with this book, though I didn't care for it as much as the earlier volumes, because....
(view spoiler)[As much as I enjoyed the plot in the abstract, I didn't think it was as well executed as it should have been. We got hints that the treason coming from within the fleet was being directed by someone who was lurking in the shadows, but when those people are revealed, they're small potatoes compared to people like Falco or Numos or even that slack-jawed yokel Yin. It was anticlimactic. I'd half expected the last traitor to be someone Geary trusted, specifically Duellos, which would have made me sad, but would have been suitably dramatic.
And the Geary-Rione-Desjani relationship has the marks of something Campbell changed his mind about over time. Desjani has turned into a completely different character--don't get me wrong, I like her just fine as the assertive non-starry-eyed equal to Geary, but I would have preferred to see her be that person from the beginning. I'd also bet that Rione started out as a more serious possibility for Geary's true companion, but was simply too brass-balled and outside the military mindset; by the third book there was simply no way they could have stayed together. Again, I'm liking the way it's turning out, but I like even better a series that has better continuity. (hide spoiler)]
Rione is still one of my favorite characters, though I have the feeling I'm not supposed to like her. She's a good contrast to the officers and their concept of honor, because she sees things differently but still has her own honor, and the fact that most of the fleet doesn't believe she does makes me sympathetic to her. When it comes to the final battle in this book, she plays a crucial role that finally makes the officers realize that maybe a politician doesn't have to be a back-stabbing, conniving, two-faced liability to the cause; to paraphrase another famous captain, if Rione is going to stab you in the back she'll have the decency to do it to your face.
I am so impressed with the religiosity that pervades the series. This volume isn't any more or less an example of that, but this is as good a place as any to talk about it. The idea of an entire culture that is unashamed of its spirituality, a culture in which believing in an outside Power is not incompatible with being scientifically minded, is sort of refreshing. I'm also surprised that Campbell allows his characters not only to worship, but to receive guidance from their ancestors. I don't know how this would look to a non-religious person, but I thought it was clever and heartwarming.
The final book will be a different kind of battle, and I'm interested to see what happens next.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Book four. I'm thinking it might have been a bad idea to read so many of these within hours of each other; it made sense at the time, with CourageousBook four. I'm thinking it might have been a bad idea to read so many of these within hours of each other; it made sense at the time, with Courageous ending at a pause right in the middle of the battle, but I started to get that sort of overwhelmed mental constipation that...okay, that could just be me. Still.
I have the feeling that this book and Courageous are really one long book, and not just because of that not-really-an-ending. Stuff that's brought up in Courageous gets resolved in Valiant, and resolved well. (view spoiler)[Desjani finally gets over her hero-worship attitude toward Geary, and the two finally realize there's a lot more between them than friendship and respect. They still can't do anything about it, but it gets them looking toward a future that isn't about constant warfare. And in my judgement, Rione displays an even greater sense of honor by leaving Geary rather than staying in a one-sided relationship, even though her feelings for him aren't as purely physical as she always claimed.
Some other things I haven't talked about before, even though they're in the other books as well: There's a perfect sexual egalitarianism in both the Alliance and Syndic fleets that reminds me most strongly of the Vlad Taltos novels by Steven Brust, and Campbell has a lot of strong, intelligent women to match his strong, intelligent men. Rione in particular is a tough and uncompromising person who's given up a lot of her own desires in the service of the Alliance, but she's not terribly sympathetic, but as the romantic tension heated up, she didn't get turned into a shrill harpy to make Desjani *more* sympathetic by comparison. And Desjani is a bloody-minded fighter even as she's learning a different way to fight from Geary. Very interesting.
Finally--I wrote in my review of Courageous that there wasn't a lot of non-military B plot going on, but in Valiant that balance is more than restored. One more thing to indicate the two volumes should be considered a single part of the story. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Book three of the series, and I'm still interested. At this point it's more obvious that the main point of the series is the space combat. If you're cBook three of the series, and I'm still interested. At this point it's more obvious that the main point of the series is the space combat. If you're coming to it looking for the kind of extensive character development and non-military secondary plot you get in Elizabeth Moon's or Lois McMaster Bujold's books, you're better off looking elsewhere. I don't mean that the characters are cardboard or that they don't have personal interactions, it's just that this part of the story takes up very little space in the book. I'm still not sure what's going on with Geary's interactions with Captain Desjani, who commands the flagship from which Geary directs the fleet. Desjani has a serious case of hero worship for her captain that makes their personal relationship slightly one-sided, though it's also clear she's developing more personal feelings. Geary's relationship with Co-President Victoria Rione is even more complicated, despite his freedom to pursue that relationship because she's not under military command. I like both these women, but I'm not convinced that either of them makes a good romantic partner for Geary. Fortunately, there are three more books for this triangle to finish playing out....more
The second book in the Lost Fleet series lives up to the promise of the first: plenty of space battles, plenty of internal politics, plenty of creativThe second book in the Lost Fleet series lives up to the promise of the first: plenty of space battles, plenty of internal politics, plenty of creative strategy. With series like this I tend to forget what happened in which book, and I don't consider this a problem because in my mind this is actually one giant book, sort of like the Lord of the Rings. It does make it difficult to review sometimes. In this case, though, the story is all-too-easy to remember: the fleet liberates a POW camp whose prisoners have been there for two decades. Among the former prisoners is Captain "Fighting" Falco, legendary in his own time for his daring battles against the Syndic and a charming, persuasive orator. It's obvious from the time he shows up that he'll be John Geary's newest headache, but unlike the recalcitrant captains Numos and Faresa we met in the first volume, Falco provides a powerful rallying point for the opposition. As a result, Geary's efforts are divided far more thoroughly than before, but this means that resolving the difficulties arising from Falco's presence is far more satisfying than the end of the first book. Still enjoying the series; still interested in reading the rest....more
I like military fiction anyway, and this is some good military SF. You've got this guy, John Geary, who wakes up from 100 years of drifting in an abanI like military fiction anyway, and this is some good military SF. You've got this guy, John Geary, who wakes up from 100 years of drifting in an abandoned survival pod to find that a) the war that had just begun back then is STILL going on, b) he was "posthumously" promoted to captain after his disappearance, c) in all that time, he's become something of a folk hero, and d) thanks to fleet rules about seniority, when the Alliance fleet's leadership is massacred, he's the senior ranking officer by about 100 years, which means that e) he's suddenly become the leader of a fleet whose traditions bear no resemblance to the military discipline he's used to and f) has to fight not only the opposing forces of the Syndic, but also the captains and commanders who resist his every command. (Good thing there are so many letters in the alphabet, huh?)
This first book in a six-volume series does a good job of establishing both the larger picture of two sides fighting an endless war and the small details of how the fleet works. As frustrating as Geary's internal opponents are (because most of them are total raving lunatics who've somehow internalized the idea that a glorious battle is one in which it doesn't matter if you die), the history of how they got to be that way makes a lot of sense. Campbell has an excellent grasp of physics and how it would affect ships traveling at relativistic speeds; no close-in Star Wars/Star Trek combat (by which I mean no criticism of either; this series could never make the kind of dramatic television and film they do). There are a few discordant notes, but certainly not enough to ruin my enjoyment....more
I pre-ordered the latest Temeraire book, Crucible of Gold, but didn't realize I would need to re-read this one first. I'm glad I did. It is a lot shorI pre-ordered the latest Temeraire book, Crucible of Gold, but didn't realize I would need to re-read this one first. I'm glad I did. It is a lot shorter than the earlier Temeraire books, and when I first read it, I thought it might be the first half of a larger novel that was split into two for publication. This time, though, it was more obvious that this was just a nice short book. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the earlier ones simply because Lawrence and Temeraire's Australian exile isn't as interesting to me as their involvement in the Napoleonic wars. I did like the bunyips, though. Bunyips are scary-cool. I also can't be the only person who gets so incredibly frustrated with the stupid convicts, right? Over a hundred years after Richard Morgan's time and the convicts haven't learned anything? The subtext really is an indictment of the futility of England trying to govern a colony even farther away than North America.