I had so much hope and good feeling towards this book when I found out about it and so much utter disappointment when I read it. If you are a fan of tI had so much hope and good feeling towards this book when I found out about it and so much utter disappointment when I read it. If you are a fan of the Raj Whitehall series, please do not buy this book. It does not belong with the others. This is mostly because it was not well written. In fact, I was left wondering if Tony Daniel had read all of the existing stories or not. I also had to wonder if he had read any of them more than once. Additionally, I wondered if Tony Daniel had even taken a creative writing course which is probably an unfair suspicion.
If I were rating just the first third of the book, I would give it three stars. I liked that part. The author was covering ground fairly well trodden by David Drake and S.M. Stirling, but he was writing differently enough to keep it interesting. If Tony Daniel had maintained this level of writing the book would have come out to be an acceptable addition to the series. BUT the writing dropped off more and more as the story progressed.
For me the turning point from "I like this." to "Why the hell am I reading this?" came when the Mary Sue entered the tale. Never mind that the author had introduced a perfectly acceptable female character who could easily have developed into the female counterpart of the hero. He certainly didn't mind that. In fact he threw her away right after he introduced her. She was interesting. She had a back story I would have enjoyed reading about. She was positioned with clear motive to support the hero. The history and introduction of her people had her set up to be awesome! But no. Tony Daniel at some point said, "I have a better idea." and he didn't. He fell back on what many authors have done with too many stories. He forced the readers to accept a new character that didn't have much to recommend her just so he could have a standard, unattainable love interest. Bernard Cornwell did this so much better with his Sharpe series that it doesn't rate going over where Tony Daniel went wrong.
I think what Mr. Daniel really needed was a beta that was worth their salt. Someone needed to stand up and ask some hard questions like: "Why are you including all of this stuff that does not move the story forward?" I'm not talking about a paragraph or two or even a page or two. I'm talking about entire chapters worth of text that I skimmed over because it was as dull as dull can be. He could have knocked out an entire section of this book and it would have made the story better. It would have done so not by improving the plot, but by shortening the tale. And the little side adventures he sends his character on by having Center, the sentient computer, show him how machines of the past worked were redundant in what they presented. The first time it happened was fine, but when he does it again and again it gets old. I wanted to scream, "I get the point! Now just tell your story!"
The last two thirds of the book seem to focus on trying to get the reader to see how wicked and evil the main villain is and how corrupt the rulers of the world are. Fine. No problem. At least until you consider how poorly this was done. The bad guy the hero has to face off against really isn't that interesting. He isn't smart. He's ruthless, sure, but not smart. Worse than being boring, the reader is never left in doubt as to whether or not the hero will succeed in defeating this enemy. It's obvious from the get go that he is going to win and suffer very little while doing so. It becomes even more obvious after the Mary Sue joins in. Hell, she could have won this war in a week and had enough time to write her memoirs while doing it.
Honestly, I think Tony Daniel came under some sort of deadline and just rushed through to the end. The last portion of the book reads as if he phoned it in. Other indicators of this deadline theory of mine are his repeated wrong word usage and the occasional slip up where he uses the word 'horse' instead of the invented animal 'dont'. If he had had time to run his chapters by a proper beta reader and an editor I think he would have crafted a much better book. I think he was also worried about word count which is really important in modern novels. Sadly, the author could have written the story in a much more interesting way and probably increased his word count in doing so. Instead of telling the reader what was happing he could have taken the readers along on the adventure and shown us what was happening. A missed opportunity never to be regained.
In short, this was a poorly written book I wish I had not read. The only reason I could call this a page turner is that I was trying to get to the good parts. There were far too few to make it worth the trouble. Alas....more
Not entirely satisfied with this book. The parts involving the school were a little off the shelf. Typical upper class bullies and the typical "nerds"Not entirely satisfied with this book. The parts involving the school were a little off the shelf. Typical upper class bullies and the typical "nerds" being picked on. The adventure aspect wasn't bad and there is a measureable improvement in style. This book certainly sets up events for later in the series....more