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An agent for a spy organization  uncovers an alien alliance in nearby interstellar space—an alliance that will soon involve humanity in politics and war on a galactic scale. 2105, September: Intelligence Analyst Caine Riordan uncovers a conspiracy on Earth’s Moon—a history-changing clandestine project—and ends up involuntarily cryocelled for his troubles. Twelve years later, Riordan awakens to a changed world. Humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel and is pioneering nearby star systems. And now, Riordan is compelled to become an inadvertent agent of conspiracy himself. Riordan’s mission: travel to a newly settled world and investigate whether a primitive local species was once sentient—enough so to have built a lost civilization.

However, arriving on site in the Delta Pavonis system, Caine discovers that the job he’s been given is anything but secret or safe. With assassins and saboteurs dogging his every step, it's clear that someone doesn't want his mission to succeed. In the end, it takes the broad-based insights of an intelligence analyst and a matching instinct for intrigue to ferret out the truth: that humanity is neither alone in the cosmos nor safe. Earth is revealed to be the lynchpin planet in an impending struggle for interstellar dominance, a struggle into which it is being irresistibly dragged. Discovering new dangers at every turn, Riordan must now convince the powers-that-be that the only way for humanity to survive as a free species is to face the perils directly—and to fight fire with fire.

496 pages, Paperback

First published March 15, 2013

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About the author

Charles E. Gannon

62 books176 followers
Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English (St. Bonaventure U.) & Fulbright Senior Specialist (American Lit & Culture). He has had novellas in Analog and the War World series. His nonfiction book "Rumors of War and Infernal Machines" won the 2006 ALA Outstanding Text Award. He also worked as author and editor for GDW, and was a routine contributor to both the scientific/technical content and story-line in the award-winning games "Traveller," and "2300 AD." He has been awarded Fulbrights to England, Scotland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Netherlands, and worked 8 years as scriptwriter/producer in NYC.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 243 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,913 followers
February 10, 2017
This is one of those novels that you absolutely need to be in the mood for.

I've been through cycles in my reading where I might have violently rejected this kind of glorious space opera and other times where I might think it was a fairly cool, light, and transparent adventure.

This time, however, it hits me in precisely the right spot. I wanted a true and one-dimensional hero that plows excellently through all the hardships thrown at his polymath mind, overcoming moral quandaries with steadfast heart, and meeting the rest with foes with fist, knife, and projectiles, when he isn't falling back on his poor, nearly defunct career as a journalist.

Sure, he's a real hero doing heroic things as only an old-style SF adventure can do it, but there IS a twist: The novel is constrained and lifted by way of modern writing sensibilities, slightly better pacing, better science, contemporary issues writ large, and comprehensible alien politics. A lot of action and story takes place in these pages, and each builds upon the last in a very logical sequence until the grand unified story slams back at us and lets us know that we're all pawns in the hands of the author (and the convocation of aliens, alas).

After having read so many depressing and dystopian novels in the last decade, I can't help but look favourably upon this novel as a message of optimism and hope, where the good guys win and the bad guys get humiliated or crushed, where the threat of overwhelming force can be stopped by making the right friends at exactly the right time, where nefarious plots are uncovered when they can do the most good.

Truly, there's nothing wrong with having a feel-good adventure novel, especially when it avoids all those old embarrassing norms of casual ethnocentric prejudice, extremely embarrassing passive female characterizations (although one might make the argument that the woman master of martial arts has also become a trite stereotype, lately,) and embarrassing lack of even slightly reasonable physics.

I'm not saying that decohesion and travelling along a superstring and recohesion on the other side is particularly accurate, it's just a more interesting idea than a simple flolding of space or a hyperspace jump. Fans of the old adventures will get a kick out of this novel, because it is, in fact, written very well for what it is.

Because, let's face it, it's pulp fiction. It's very good pulp fiction, but it's still pulp fiction. A lot happens quickly. Hell, I kept thinking of Lensman minus the telepathy, if some of you fans of the old stuff want that kind of hint. Perhaps throw in a bit of Heinlein's early "by the bootstraps" fiction, a grand dose of 30's sensibilities, and a huge, shit-eating grin, and you'll have pegged this novel perfectly.

If that's what you're looking for or what you've been missing in your life for the last decade, then jump right in! The water's fine!

I personally loved the swim. It was a different kind of nostalgia and a welcome change. No pessimism allowed.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews186 followers
July 13, 2018
The best way to describe Charles E. Gannon's Fire With Fire is "old-fashioned", in both the best and worst senses of that term. On one hand, Gannon's novel offers a meticulously detailed and broadly examined future history - the kind of thing old school SF nerds gush over - while adding a few new twists and wrinkles to the classic first contact narrative. By that I mean there are lots of tried and true genre tropes recycled in this novel, but rendered skillfully enough to maximize their entertainment value.
On the other hand, Fire with Fire also contains many of the problems that plague the old-fashioned SF novel. The dialogue is so robotic and stilted it often borders on self-parody. Gannon also obsessively spells out his characters thoughts and feelings and motives, so as to remove any possibility of ambiguity or nuance in their choices and actions. Gannon relies heavily on withholding pertinent information from the hero to build dramatic tension, and while his story logic is mostly consistent, all this calculated reticence ends up being more frustrating for the reader than suspenseful. Also, despite taking pains to provide an international, somewhat diverse cast of characters (albeit in mostly marginalized roles), the novel is as anglo-centric in perspective as a novel can get.
Other reviewers have remarked that they were offended by the novel's female stereotypes (the kung fu-ing "Strong Female Character", the bookish demure, the treacherous vixen), but to be fair, the male characters are pretty standard, too, right down to the impossibly clever straight white male hero. The difference, of course, is that the male characters make choices that affect the plot, while the women only seem to be around to support or supplement those choices.
I also have to confess that I nearly stopped reading Fire With Fire about a third of the way through - it was sputtering along at such an uneven pace, and so often spattered with eye-rolling, forehead-palming inanity that I almost couldn't take it any more. But ultimately there were just enough of those old-fashioned SF thrills and fun stuff to keep me engaged and tolerating its flaws for the duration. Gannon rocks that whole "smarts plus earnestness" nerd cocktail that used to define the bulk of genre's writers, for good and for ill. His straight-faced stabs at selling the reader on the cheesy jargon and Star Treky alien races and other sciencey science fiction stuff is ultimately more endearing than annoying.
So a three-star "liked it" review is the most appropriate response I can muster, adding that I "liked it" enough to want to pick up the sequel and see where the story goes next.
Profile Image for Stig Edvartsen.
441 reviews19 followers
March 4, 2014
A very uneven book.

The good:

The second half of the book managed to create a bit of interesting intrigue and set-up for subsequent books.

Some of the dialogue is quite good, and a few of Riordans deductions quite well done.

The bad:

Some of the language is a bit *ahem* rough. Undulating torsos and sinous women. Tsk tsk.

The women are tough as nails as long as there's not a man around to save them. Then they simper, refuse to go through doors or have irrational breakdowns. *ALL* the women with significant speaking parts fall for the main character and defer to him in his manliness.

The main character is flawless. His deductive powers make Sherlock seem a bit of an amateur. He's a bit like Superman sans kryptonite.

The pacing is very uneven. In the beginning there's a bit of set-up and then the plot jumps and skips ahead for a quarter of the book before suddenly slowing down to where the second (and best) half of the book is mainly dialogue. The planet-bound plot just stopped half-way through.

The baddies are Exxon, vegetarians, appeasement and space nazis. And not space nazis in a good way.

Irrelevant details are randomly given. In the middle of a bullet-fight, one of the protagonists stops to be grateful for the fact that Mars has a significantly lower gravity than Earth, because it enables him to lift something easier.

Profile Image for Richard.
785 reviews
July 5, 2014
I find it mind boggling that this book was nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award.

The book is not very well-written. An important new plot line is not introduced until 65% of the way through the story. Dialog is often not credible. The plot line diverges unexpectedly, with little or no preparation for the reader. Some aspects of the story appear to be included solely in order to increase the page count. The scenes shift without warning, as does the primary plot line. New concepts and characters are introduced almost as after thoughts. At least one scene (in an airlock) defies logic and common sense. The story ends very abruptly, with numerous loose ends remaining untied.

It appears that this is the first of a series, but I won't be reading any more of them. This was just bad!
Profile Image for Nickolas.
Author 2 books21 followers
March 16, 2013
I can't stop smiling. It's been far too long since I've read a good science fiction novel. Once my go-to genre, science fiction has taken a back seat to fantasy of late. Charles E. Gannon's FIRE WITH FIRE absolutely falls under the definition of good science fiction. It is a novel that has reminded me just what it is that I love about the genre and it has ensured that I will be following Gannon's work closely in the years to come. FIRE WITH FIRE sets a great many things in motion, signaling the start of what I assume will be a sweeping science fiction epic.

Here is the Amazon description:

2105, September: Intelligence Analyst Caine Riordan uncovers a conspiracy on Earth’s Moon—a history-changing clandestine project—and ends up involuntarily cryocelled for his troubles. Twelve years later, Riordan awakens to a changed world. Humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel and is pioneering nearby star systems. And now, Riordan is compelled to become an inadvertent agent of conspiracy himself. Riordan’s mission: travel to a newly settled world and investigate whether a primitive local species was once sentient—enough so to have built a lost civilization.

However, arriving on site in the Delta Pavonis system, Caine discovers that the job he’s been given is anything but secret or safe. With assassins and saboteurs dogging his every step, it's clear that someone doesn't want his mission to succeed. In the end, it takes the broad-based insights of an intelligence analyst and a matching instinct for intrigue to ferret out the truth: that humanity is neither alone in the cosmos nor safe. Earth is revealed to be the lynchpin planet in an impending struggle for interstellar dominance, a struggle into which it is being irresistibly dragged. Discovering new dangers at every turn, Riordan must now convince the powers-that-be that the only way for humanity to survive as a free species is to face the perils directly—and to fight fire with fire.

And that is just the beginning of the beginning. FIRE WITH FIRE is a first contact story overflowing with espionage, politicking, diplomacy, and problem solving. Given the complexity of the novel, Intelligence Analyst Caine Riordan makes for a suitable protagonist. I appreciate Caine's prior background in journalism, as it speaks of his experience following leads and exposing hidden agendas. It also brings Caine into conflict with his superiors. Caine is a Boy Scout. He has made a career of airing the dirty laundry of the powerful and influential. Now he finds himself working behind the scenes, going from straight-arrow to cloak and dagger. Caine is also a polymath, making him a jack-of-all-trades. He's not nearly as suave as James Bond, but he is three times as resourceful.

Caine does exhibit moments of reluctance during his service of the Institute of Reconnaissance, Intelligence, and Security or IRIS for short. IRIS is responsible for his thirteen year long nap, and though Caine supports the Institute's mandate to protect Earth from exosapient invasion he detests their methods. Caine suffers from a short term amnesia of the 100 hours before being placed under cryo-sleep. Corcoran and Downing, the spy masters of IRIS, use this as leverage to get Caine to do their bidding. Corcoran and Downing are Machiavellian in their processes but they are not unsympathetic, especially later in the novel when it becomes apparent what they have sacrificed to protect their species. After all, "Sometimes adopting the methods of your adversaries is the only effective strategy..." Opal Patrone, another recipient of long term cryo-sleep, also becomes an asset of IRIS. Her military history marks her as an ideal bodyguard for Caine, whose actions place a target on his head.

It's worth noting that all of the characters in FIRE WITH FIRE are strong and dynamic. They aren't particularly deep but they do display multiple dimensions. The characters act and react to ever-evolving circumstances but none of them ever feel like spectators. Still, it's not the characters that make FIRE WITH FIRE such a fantastic read. Gannon obviously knows his stuff. I'm not afraid to admit that I was glad for my Kindle's dictionary function while reading. That's not to say that there are loads of incomprehensible words or science. This isn't space opera but it's not quite hard sci-fi either. There is an exploration of scientific concepts, particularly the Wasserman Drive, but FIRE WITH FIRE is more of a thriller than anything else.

Gannon delves into the economics of interstellar trade, the politics of planetary colonization, struggles between government and corporations, the consolidation of power, and the complications of first contact. Exosapient diplomacy is the best part of the novel and in this way FIRE WITH FIRE is reminiscent of another favorite of mine, COURSE OF EMPIRE by Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth. There are moments of thrilling action, including narrow escapes and botched assassination attempts, but the real excitement comes from the human-alien interaction.

"You came here expecting a tea party and found yourself in a diplomatic death match."

It's not long after the Earth unifies under the World Confederacy that it gets an invitation to participate in the Accord, a democratic council of alien states. What at first appears to be a friendly invitation soon takes on a sinister light as the human ambassadors realize that the council might not be so unified, leaving humanity in an unenviable position. The communication between the different races is awesome. Each race has different mannerisms, culture, and motivations. It takes quick thinking and collective brain power for the human ambassadors to maneuver through the pitfalls that come with walking into such a FUBAR scenario.

FIRE WITH FIRE is a building block in the foundation of Gannon's sci-fi epic. This could be read as a standalone novel but I don't see why anyone would want to. There are big, big things on the horizon as the book closes. Some questions are answered (quite satisfyingly I might add) and even more questions are posed. Once Gannon starts the ball rolling, there's no stopping the momentum. I am ecstatic to have found a new sci-fi author worth following and I eagerly await the sequel.

Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Some, not too heavy.
Violence: Some, nothing too graphic.
Sex: Suggested.
Profile Image for Tim Hicks.
1,473 reviews116 followers
February 28, 2015
This book takes a mighty swing at being a Great Space Opera - and hits a long foul ball. Exciting to watch, but in the end disappointing. Which is another way of saying it's a pretty good read but not a great book.

The names mentioned around this book - Weber, Flint, Pournelle - give you a hint. This isn't Arthur C. Clarke, this isn't Bujold's Vorkosigan series, this isn't Dickson's Dorsai.

The hero is essentially Keith Laumer's Retief. No, really: here A diplomatic Mary Sue. We meet alien races, one of which is pretty much Niven's Kzin. Caine is "run" by a spymaster out of hundreds of previous books; for hundreds of pages, whatever happens you KNOW we're soon going to read, "yaaas, that was us, we did that." Pfui. The spymaster is also essentially the grownups from Ender's Game.

Our hero ends up entangled with two women - Gloria Vavoom and Lola Wottabodi. When is a space hero going to work with a female who is nondescript and quietly competent and not interested in sex with him? Just once, can someone try it?

Our hero spends some time interacting with two of the alien races' spokesthings. Both of them are extreme outliers among their fellows, so much so that it's hard to see how they could have been selected as representatives. One tries to explain, but to me it was handwaving.

The character referred to as "Circe" joins Jar Jar Binks and a very few others on my Most Annoying list - especially since . Wasserman from this same book also makes the list. Unnecessarily annoying to the point of being distracting.

Oddly, Caine's Mary-Sue capabilities weren't as annoying as I thought they'd be. Once you know your hero's untouchable - and this goes all the way back to Dan Dare in the Eagle comics in the 50s - you just want to see how he gets out of each situation, and you hope it won't be "with a mighty leap" or one of those pukers where the guy is facing 20 cobras, a tiger, four machine guns and a helicopter, and wakes up in a hospital room ... where you KNOW he's going to ask "How long was I out?" ... and there's some lame-ass explanation of how the cavalry arrived just in time. That only happens once in this book, and it wasn't too bad.

So ... we have a bunch of good pages of our guy finding out stuff and showing competence. Then some good pages of the bad guys being after the good guys. Then we're off to space, blah, blah, and now we're doing some First Contact that goes right into advanced diplomacy, because luckily they have learned our languages and everyone has universal translators. How fortunate.

And it all wraps up neatly at the end .... NO IT DOESN'T! It stops annoyingly.
Not unforgivably, because it was a logical place to stop, but I would have liked a bit more closure on some of the story arcs.

SO, worth reading, but I don't think we'll be talking about it in ten years.
Profile Image for Phil.
1,548 reviews90 followers
November 10, 2021
Gannon's first novel definitely has an 'old fashioned' feel to it, by which I mean this has golden age vibes, albeit updated for modern sensibilities. The trope of humanity reaches for the stars and soon discovers that there are other intelligent species in the cosmos has really been done almost to death. Yet, FWF proves that you can still get some mileage from 'classic' themes in science fiction, especially when you give them a twist while doing so. The twist here revolves around the cloak and dagger motif that permeates the story and the odd array of characters.

Our main protagonist is Caine Riordan, something of an investigative journalist. In 2105, he travels to the moon (it has been colonized by now) to look into misappropriation of funds by some government agencies. For unknown reasons (you will learn why at the very end of the novel) he is stunned and 'put on ice' for 13 years (e.g., cyrosleep). When he is revived, he quickly learns that humanity has broken the FTL barrier and in fact has already colonized several new worlds. The people who wake him are something of a super-spy agency (called IRIS), who operate in the 'gray zone', but tasked to prepare/warn of any potentially hostile alien intelligence.

Essentially, with his prior life moot, the agency offers him a deal. They need someone to check out the colony on Delta Pavonis three (Dee Pee 3) who has no links to existing government agencies. While Caine is not trained to be a spy, and he also has little military background, he does get some training on the way to Dee Pee 3. Once there, he discovers that (mild spoiler) an intelligent species does live on the planet (albeit very primitive) and some ancient ruins that look to be actually made by humans thousands of years ago...

For me the main pleasure of this was seeing how the plot unfolded, so I will stop with the plotting here. The whole cloak and dagger aspect was done well. It seems that some other group is seeking to thwart IRIS and Caine especially. Assassins armed with strange and exotic technology take a few shots at Caine and IRIS in general. So, what we have here is: is a covert spy agency IRIS) looking out for aliens; some mysterious agency seeking to thwart IRIS; and some tense political situations on Earth as the various powers that be attempt to form a world government. Political intrigue, some decent action sequences, mysterious aliens and more all work to serve up a tasty treat.

All in all, a fun read that keeps the reader guessing but does manage to tie the story arcs up nicely at the end, while still leaving a huge (annoying!) cliff hanger. The aliens are also something of a throw back; they seem to be motivated by the same 'instincts' of humanity-- power, expansion, etc.-- and have a George Lucas feel to them (and, well, maybe Niven's Kzin as well). While this does has some strong female leads, why I said this feels like 'updated' golden age Scifi, I can see why Gannon still got some heat over them as they do tend to 'melt' and need a strong man when push comes to shove. Good stuff! 3.5 alien stars!
Profile Image for BG Josh.
82 reviews2 followers
June 30, 2014
So you have to understand that a book written in the 1960's is going to be laden with misogyny because that was the prevailing attitude of the time, and...

Wait, what? this book came out last year? In that case the author is a horrible misogynist.

I actually did have to check the publishing date, this future world has to be the least technologically advanced future I have ever seen. It's almost a hundred years in the future and the self driving cars are worse than the self driving cars that exist now.

Anyway, horribly misogynistic. And the main character has no personality other than liking to bang chicks(don't worry, he's a nice guy, the chicks throw themselves at him). The story also has no point.

Oh, and when the bad guys secret is revealed, how he killed all those people, ta da, it was quantum mechanics. Yep, whole explanation.

Terrible book, however I have an idea how to use it. Make people read it and then ask them questions to see if they think the book is sexist. That way you can screen for misogynists.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
718 reviews1,396 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
June 20, 2016
Stopped at about 70 pages in. Wow, SUPER stereotypes, clunky infodump dialog, and it promises to be a sausage fest peppered with cliche females. I had to stop when the first woman to appear was *immediately* a sexy seductive vixen and introduced with her "curves". Blargh. I'm sure there's fun in this, but it just seems like really, really, REALLY typical old style mil SF.
Profile Image for Peter.
573 reviews19 followers
January 25, 2017
A super-competent writer is put on ice for decades by a secret government agency, and, when he's revived, sent on a mission to investigate rumors of extraterrestrial contact on an alien world, an then a bunch of other stuff happens.

There is a style of book affectionately referred to as competency porn, which often involves a particularly intelligent and skilled main character doing some difficult tasks better than anyone else. It can be enjoyable, if done well and with a certain amount of restraint.

If you put competency porn books on a scale analogous to regular pornography this book would be, well, to even attempt to continue this metaphor with any specificity would turn this review incredibly vulgar. So I'll just say it'd be at the extreme end. I mean, the character is explicitly a genius, cool in a crisis, ladies man, develops a sixth-sense type instinct for trouble, and most of the time figures things out before anyone else in the room. They even have other characters comment on how his major flaw is that he's so good at everything that if he reaches a situation that he can't handle he might not be willing to give up or consider less-than-optimal solutions. Rest assured, this never happens, which makes that conversation the equivalent of a job interview where you say, "My biggest flaw? Well, I tend to put the company's interests ahead of my own." It's not only incredibly self-serving, it's also pretty obvious what you're doing and would make me think less of you for doing it.

Leaving that aside (although the problem attaches to and infects other flaws in the book like one of those sci-fi viruses that turns infectees into muscle-bound monsters), the book isn't too bad, but there still are some flaws. The sexual politics are pretty iffy, with most female characters fawning over the main character for one reason or another, and even when they're professionals with skills of their own, they're often secondary to the hero's super-competence. If they've got a specialty, they can provide a few insights but he has to match them at least, either from his own knowledge on the subject or general knowledge of history. Even the female bodyguard assigned to protect him, the few times they're together in a fight, he's in no real need of protection and if I recall correctly even saves her. I mean, it might have been interesting if he was incredibly smart but a little useless in a fight, but no, he's gotta be awesome at that too. The only reason he even needs a bodyguard, it seems, is for someone to flirt with and have a romance. Sure, there are in-story reasons, but they're not very compelling (nor is the reason he's continually in danger from assassins in the first place).

The book also doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It starts out as a "investigate if there are primitive aliens being exploited," then turns for a while into "superspies dodging assassins", then suddenly morphs into a diplomatic first contact mission with a set of alien races (completely unrelated to the aliens in the first section). Why does he need to be in all of these stories? Because he's just that good at everything that everything would fall apart if he wasn't involved. Even the aliens appreciate his diplomatic instincts about when to raise issues and when to pretend nothing unusual happened. And none of the storylines are entirely satisfying, like they are being set up in advance for a long series. That's also the only thing I can think of to explain the utterly pointless scenes of the olive-eating villain. Seriously, there are like six scenes where a villain watches people while eating olives, or interacts with the waiter and asks for more olives and OH MY GOD I LIKE OLIVES AND FETA CHEESE TO BUT GET TO THE DAMN POINT ALREADY. Nobody in the main cast even meets him in the first book (but he's given a name in the sections about him so you know he's due to be important).

But, again, other than all this, the book's okay. There are some fun moments, some interesting SF rationales for how the technology like FTL works, and several alien races which are okay. Too many feel like they're just discount versions of Trek or other classic SF aliens, but okay. It doesn't really do anything special, but it's not a chore to read, except for the exercise you occasionally get eyerolling. Several of the books in the series have wound up on the Nebula Award shortlist, and I can't for the life of me understand why, except perhaps that it might really appeal to a certain subset of fandom or people who really like golden age SF, but were craving new examples of it. Two stars is, under Goodreads system "it was okay," and so that's the score it gets. I do not expect to read any more in the series, unless I happen to also get them free (this book was offered as part of Baen's Free Library of ebooks).
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,241 reviews627 followers
July 14, 2017
very entertaining old-style sf with modern sensibilities and the start of a series with great promise

Fire with Fire was a book I really did not expect to even open as based on the Starfire novel co-written with S White (Extremis) which for some reasons did not work in the least for me while its first installment (Exodus to which Extremis is the conclusion) co-written by S. White with someone else once D. Weber left the series due to his many commitments, was quite good, I kind of put Charles Gannon on my avoid list...

However I really enjoyed his contribution to the 6th Honorverse anthology, Beginnings, so I decided to take a look at his solo series debut Fire with Fire

in 2105 Caine Riordan, gadfly writer/reporter, investigates rumors of shady goings on the Moon, accepts to stay quiet as said goings are part of something big and for the humanity's good but is still put in cryo for 13 years with induced loss of short memory so he cannot remember what he found out in those 4 days on the Moon; when he wakes up in 2118, humanity has ftl and colonies here and there and there is a rumor that on one of them advanced alien artifacts have been found but covered up by the local company that is building the colony there; as he is "out of time" by 13 years he accepts to work for the people who put him in crio - a super-secret spy agency - and investigate; stuff happens...

a few points - the book has 3 distinct parts in addition to the 2105 short prologue; the first part is outstanding investigative/mystery sf, the second is pretty good but not anything special action thriller sf, while the last part is again outstanding old style first contact segueing into space opera sf

- the transition between the parts when the pov's multiply a little is not as smooth as it could be, but it is acceptable; the Odyssey inspired code names that denote the respective pov (Caine being obviously Odysseus himself) are a little jarring at first but then one gets used with them and in the end the choices turn out to be even more inspired than I originally thought, but you have to read the book to find out why with the final cool twist (which I really did not see and which raised the enjoyment a notch and made a reread a must)

- good tbc stopping point and I really want volume 2

- characters and world building commensurate with the above with "good guy" Caine the almost typical old style sf hero but for him being a writer so not particularly experienced in combat to start with, though he learns quickly; good assortment of other good and bad guys and girls, while similarly the alien species are both stock and with enough originality to make only a "half predictable" storyline there

- overall Fire with fire is the kind of sf that is basic and that made the genre my favorite for so long and it does things very well with great promise for more

polished version of the above on FBC:

Profile Image for Benjamin.
Author 18 books25 followers
August 12, 2017
I’m not sure which is more boring in a book: a plot that doesn’t go anywhere, or a main character who is perfect. Unfortunately, Fire with Fire has both. I’ll first start with my qualms about the plot. This story started way too late, as it didn’t get interesting until halfway through. Even when it did finally get interesting, it suddenly became bogged down in committee. Seriously? Didn’t we learn anything from the Star Wars prequels? Adding politics to a story about traveling across space merely makes it tedious. This is also not to mention how heavy and clunky the exposition is, with almost every chapter being filled with information that isn’t important, and the jumps between chapters needing way more explanation.

Secondly, let’s take a look at “Mr. Perfect,” Caine Riordan. Aside from the egregious fact that the POV switched between 1st person and 3rd person within most of the paragraphs of his section (with no italics or indication that we were suddenly in Caine’s head), I felt this character was just the author’s way to show how smart he is. With the expansive repertoire of high-value vocabulary words and a character that always knows what to do all the time and has all the correct answers, I ended up not caring about any of it by the end. And I haven’t even mentioned the blatant and pervasive misogyny either.

Even the rest of the supporting cast was so flat and one-dimensional that I probably couldn’t tell you who they were or what their defining characteristics were (aside from that one mysterious guy who LOVED olives and feta cheese). Most of the time I was reading this book, I kept wondering, “Wait . . . what?” as what seemed to be major plot points were introduced then almost immediately forgotten until hundreds of pages later. I’m not sure how this book managed to get a series tacked on to it, or how it was even nominated for a Nebula Award, but it gives me encouragement that I could write something way better than this.

Antiquated sci-fi tropes in a recently written book, I give Fire with Fire 2.0 stars out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com
Profile Image for Strix.
247 reviews16 followers
July 21, 2019
This is the first book in an ongoing sci-fi series, and you can tell something's up from the very beginning of the book: the series is called the "Terran Republic" and yet nowhere in the first novel are those two words. Instead there's a barely united Earth and our main character has been sent to find aliens on a jungle planet.

Before I get into summaries or analysis, you need to know this: this book moves at a breakneck pace and covers broad swaths of plot to the point where if I bring up anything past the first hundred pages, I'm spoiling something. To that end, there will be spoilers, and I'll mark 'em when we get there.

The premise: Caine Riordan, our Gary Stu of a hero, is caught snooping on the Moon and an overzealous security team puts him into cryo-sleep. Two senior spy masters decide to leave him in the freezer for thirteen years and wipe his memories of what he was doing on the Moon. When they defrost him, they immediately draft and train him and send him on a special agent mission to a jungle planet to look for aliens that a megacorp might be hiding.

Yeah, it moves fast. Bam bam bam, and there are lingering mysteries that will last through this book and beyond.

Caine's a Gary Stu: he's described as a polymath, he's a great shot, he's intelligent and a good person and blahhh blah blah, yeah, I know. Somehow he isn't irritating? He's an extremely competent man who gets screwed repeatedly by spymasters, when all he wants is to go back to being an investigative journalist. He's also got a sense of duty and a moral code that makes him a poor fit for the spy business, and this comes up repeatedly throughout the novel. So - yes, he's hyper-competent and has like no flaws, and that makes him a Gary Stu. Be aware of your own tolerances before you start, because my god is he competent. To the point that a friend recced this book to me by calling it competence porn.

It helps, then, that while there's some focus on the characters and their inner lives, the majority of this book is focused around plot.

Here come spoilers: stop reading here if you intend to read this yourself!

This is the first half of the novel: pure thriller with political elements and plenty of assassination attempts and action bits. It's fun! It's not something you see a lot of in sci-fi, not with the realpolitik.

If the novel were just this I'd recommend it, but then the second half raises the stakes and sets the stage for sequels and if you thought I was warning for spoilers before, TURN BACK NOW. This is where the real dragons lie, and you're depriving yourself of some real cool reveals if you read these spoilers:

I don't normally spoil things like that in a review, but it'd be an unfair review otherwise - there's just so much jampacked into this book, and it all ties into each other. I love it? I don't often find books where the plot is so nested and breakneck that every twenty pages is a revelation that's interesting.

Which is - yeah, you aren't reading this book for the characters. They're interesting and there's some neat drama, but it's absolutely not the centerstage. You are here to find out what happens next and boy, what happens next is always compelling.

Time to delve back into spoilers again and talk a little bit at length about the second half of the book and what it means to me as a sci-fi reader:

To that end, have book two ready. I've started it today.

I'd better wrap this review - did you read all the spoilers? You already know if you're in or not. Did you skip them? How do you feel about reading a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that goes places? It's well-written, has solid characters and the action is fun to read.

Skip if you want character drama or something slower, because this is not that. Also skip if you don't want to read more than one book, because while it ties up a lot of plot threads it leaves some pretty big ones dangling.

Finally, be careful: it gets so fast that I couldn't put it down. You might be stuck staying up to finish the thing like I did.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bryan Brown.
229 reviews5 followers
August 27, 2017

Frankly I desperately wanted to like this book. The setup was really interesting and I was in the mood for something more light hearted after all the Malazan Empire stories I had read.

Sadly, in spite of all my attempts to get into reading this I was ultimately unable to and quit reading at page 207, maybe a third of the way through the book.

The characters were uniformly flat, and the leftist workers rights agenda was too ham-fisted, and the character arcs were clumsy and predictable, and the bad guys are somehow omnipotent and omni-powerful until the hero arrives, and worst of all the action sequences were confusing and unclear.

All else would have been forgiven for good action scenes but sadly even those are messy. For example, one character goes to judo toss another and the descriptions of the wrists and ankles and hips and elbows and who knows what else left me trying to puzzle out how on earth these people could be standing or moving without somehow being more elastic than everyone else.

This book desperately wants to be a mix of golden era Sci-Fi with hard core military Sci-Fi with it's use of cultural agendas and flat characters in an interesting scene. Unfortunately, it is unable to deliver on the promise since it lacks the essential charm and simple writing of that age and it lacks the clear action and pacing of military Sci-Fi. I'm disappointed because I was really in the mood for some golden era Sci-Fi or exciting space opera or action packed military Sci-Fi. The book was unable to deliver on any of those notes. I can't recommend this book and I will not be reading any more in the series.
222 reviews17 followers
August 6, 2014
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It has most of everything I like in a good space opera - intrigue, action, mysterious aliens, conspiracies, spies and soldiers (not enough space ships though).

Like many reviewers, I will agree that it reminded of an old fashioned classic of the genre. Where I can't agree is that it deserves 5 stars. My complaints are, in no particular order:

1. The Hero - he makes Wesley Crusher look like an incompetent idiot. There is nothing this guy can't do, which makes him too remote and difficult for the reader to relate too.

2. The Plot - it jumps around waaay too much - from Washington, to Greece, to Mars, to... and so on and so on.

3 The Pacing - really, the first 2/3 of the novel are a mediocre spy novel/ the last 1/3 being a moderately interesting first contact novel. However, none of it really gelled for me.

4. The characters - as perfect as the hero is, we never really get to know him. That is okay however because we never really get to know ANY of the characters.

The last 1/3 of the book was sufficiently interesting that I'll probably read the sequel but in a decade that has seen the Expanse series released, I expect a lot more from my Space Opera than I found here.
Profile Image for Jeff.
6 reviews29 followers
August 17, 2013
Action, adventure, mystery, romance, surprises followed by surprises. The prose is crisp, the story deftly executed, and the plot is wheels within wheels, the right hand not only not knowing what the left hand is doing, but often unaware there is a left hand.

Caine is a polymath, his sharp mind and competence not always from training, but often from intuition, yet he also shares the most common needs and weaknesses of the rest of us, as well as uncommon ones which make this such a philosophically interesting read.

I loved this book and am eagerly awaiting the next in the series!
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
March 27, 2015
Great fun! Sometimes the child in me needs these kind of science-fiction adventures, even if they are spend in the company of one dimensional characters and anthropomorphic aliens.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,551 reviews310 followers
July 10, 2017
I wanted to like this book, but failed. When it's done well, I love this sort of thing. But.... see the other negative reviews here: crude, poorly written, etc. etc. 1.5 stars. Bah. Not for me!
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
258 reviews78 followers
February 28, 2022
DNF at 32%.

I knew this book would be bad from the start, I'd been warned, but there is a good sort of bad and a bad sort of bad and, sadly, this was the latter.

There were a number of reasons that, despite people's criticisms, I thought I'd love this book:
- I LOVE the Ell Donsaii series (Quicker), even though I know it's literary crap, and I figured I'd feel the same way about this series.
- It's near future science fiction, so should have been vaguely relatable
- It has first contact with aliens

Sadly, it seems the critics were right.
- The main character is one-dimensionally brilliant. Now, I don't actually mind this from time to time, but there has to be some sort of an attempt to explain where this brilliance comes from (Ell Donsaii is naturally genetically enhanced). Here, we're just suppose to accept the fact that a journalist, with six weeks of spy training, has better knowledge and understanding of guns and shooting than trained militia men. Please. It's just not plausible.

- The writing is all over the place. Mid-paragraph, we change from first person to third person to second person narration. Characters' thoughts, feelings and motives are spelled out to the nth degree, leaving the impression that Gannon thinks his readers too stupid to suppose anything themselves. And the pacing is so uneven that it's almost dizzying. Scenes abruptly start or finish mid-action, leaving you no idea what happened or how you arrived in your current location, and simulations are made to appear real until the very last moment when the ah-ha moment comes.

- The characters are stereotypes and so far the only female character has been a big-busted, alluring woman to tease the journalist away from sensitive corporate secrets.

I can't tell you the number of times I've rolled my eyes or sighed in frustration, and I'm only a third of the way through. I just can't do it any more, there are better books out there. If you're looking for one, try: Quicker, Sleeping Giants, Project Hail Mary, The Warrior's Apprentice, The Word for World Is Forest, Earth Unaware, Killing Floor.
May 7, 2020
In the 60ies the biggest James Bond fan of all was abducted by Aliens, put into cryo-sleep, re-awakened in 2012 and forced to write a Science Fiction novel.
That was my take when I had to stop in the first half of the book since it is so unimaginative as you can guess. Although humanity discovered FTL travel in about 100 years, right after that they invent self-driving, speaking (sic!) cars and still use paper cash when traveling to Mars where they solve crimes by comparing blood-types instead of gene analysis. All important work is done by men, women only appear as side kicks with limited background.
I could not stand reading any further, it just upset me too much.
Profile Image for Jon.
431 reviews3 followers
November 20, 2020
I originally started to read this because I had gotten it for free at some point, and then one of its sequels was nominated for a Nebula award. Those turned out not to be very good reasons.

It's the kind of book that keeps me from reading other books, because I subconsciously avoid reading when this is what faces me.

This was going to be the third series of books where I read Wikipedia articles to spoil the rest of the series so I don't accidentally start reading it again. But it appears that nobody has written Wikipedia articles about them.

As for the book itself, what can I say that others haven't? It's sexist. The writing is clunky. The plot veers from here to there. It ends with a cliffhanger which made me mad that I had read the whole thing without having much resolved. There were a bunch of weird reveals at the end, including a deus ex machina that was basically "quantum mechanics".

I don't understand how these books keep getting nominated for Nebula awards.
Profile Image for Kieran McAndrew.
1,737 reviews10 followers
April 19, 2020
Caine Riordan is an Intelligence Officer who uncovers a conspiracy on the moon and is cryogenically frozen to delay the truth. Awoken thirteen years later, Riordan has lost a hundred hours of memory leading up to his tanking, but finds himself the target of assassination attempts to keep the truth hidden from humanity.

Gannon's novel is comfortably set in it's near future and the novel owes at least as much to Fleming as to Asimov.
Profile Image for Mia R..
Author 1 book13 followers
March 7, 2019
Exceptional world building. Fantastic hard sci-fi story.
Profile Image for Kelly.
273 reviews181 followers
April 15, 2013
Caine Riordan is a writer, not a soldier, but when he chases a story to the Moon, he apparently steps too close to a secret held by an organisation that does not officially exist, or so he is led to believe when they pull him from cryogenic sleep thirteen years later. He was put on ice for his own protection, apparently, and the process robbed him not only of more than a decade but of the last hundred hours before he went down.

What happened in those hours?

That question, in part, initially drives Riordan to accept an assignment from IRIS, the organisation that contrives to hide him and then revives him. That and the fact he is given little other choice. He is provided with some basic training and sent to the recently colonised Delta Parvonis Three to investigate reports of a native exosapient presence. Alien, sentient beings the original survey missed. He finds them and, in the process, uncovers the shady dealings of a large corporate entity…and another secret apparently worth more than his life.

To avoid being killed, Riordan enters deep sleep again, only for a few months this time. When he awakens, his situation is no less perilous, however.

Riordan reveals his findings at a closed conference, but divulging his secrets doesn’t take the target off his back. The attempts on his life continue and, as a result, he decides to disappear, until IRIS recruits him for another assignment. He’s to meet more exosapiens as humanity has been invited to convocation where their membership in an interspecies accord will be deliberated.

Given the questions raised by what Riordan uncovered on Delta Parvonis Three and the undisclosed threat posed by the existence of star-faring alien species, Riordan is compelled to accept.

Fire with Fire’ kept me entertained up to this point. Reminiscent of a Jack McDevitt novel, the story unfurled with a good ratio of mystery to resolution, action to reaction. I understood I would not learn the big secret, the significance of what Riordan found on Delta Parvonis Three, until the end. Perhaps, then, the lost one hundred hours would be revealed and Riordan and I would flip the last page of the novel over with a sense of satisfaction. In between, the intersecting plot threads, action and well-conceived science kept those pages turning.

When Riordan and the rest of humanity’s delegation left for the convocation, I became entranced.

The exosapiens, the undercurrents of intrigue within the convocation, the revelation of a much broader plot and the final capture of those one hundred hours kept me reading without pause until the end of the book. Then I discovered my cup of tea had gone cold again and it was actually afternoon, not morning, and I would have to wait untold months for the next entry in the series. I indulged in a constrained bout of hand-wringing and then sat down to write this review.

Fire with Fire’ will appeal to most Science Fiction enthusiasts. I chose to read it because of the ‘Science Fiction thriller’ depiction. I like a good mystery. Toss in some hard science and aliens and I’m pretty much sold. Given the depth and breadth of the politics involved, earthly and beyond, I think this book will also appeal to many mainstream mystery and thriller readers. It is well-written in my opinion and the characters are varied and engaging. The greater plot is revealed slowly, which might require some patience at the beginning, but that is generally the nature of a good mystery. Small resolutions are followed by larger questions, compelling the reader to move forward. Not every question is answered by the end, but as a stand-alone novel, ‘Fire with Fire’ works well enough. I defy anyone not to be interested in what comes next, however.

Review originally written for and posted at SFCrowsnest.

9 reviews
June 22, 2020
Not my kind of thing.

The book never seriously addresses the cause of almost all interpersonal drama in the story: the secrecy that is so strictly imposed. Riordan is kept on ice for 13 years and has his memory erased because the agency chooses not to risk waking and talking to him. Downing ruins his relationships with everyone he meets because he always chooses deceit rather than explaining what's going on and persuading (e.g. not telling Opal or Caine about the ambush; pointlessly hiding info about the corpse from Trevor, etc).

There's no introspection about whether this was justified or what the relative risks were, it's just something they do.

Similarly with the wider picture or the aliens: there's no critical reflection on the authority of the military or the global government. The aliens praise humanity for upholding the laws of the Accord, but there's no real reflection on the obvious issues with those laws or the abuses of power that are clearly occurring. No reflection on how the structure of the Accords seem designed for conflict. No serious attempt to de-escalate tensions with their nearest neighbours. No-one tries to set up lines of communication, etc, etc.

Heavy and unpleasant male gaze, too.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Angie Boyter.
1,884 reviews50 followers
December 8, 2014
Re-reading for my SF group December 2014.
Journalist Caine Riordan wakes up in the year 2118 and discovers that he has been in cryosleep for 13 years and has no memory of the last 4 days before he was put to sleep. Thus begins a rousing classic SF adventure that includes a number of promising themes, including unscrupulous corporations greedily exploiting resources on other planets, recognition of a possible new sapient species and a lost civilization, humanity’s encounter with and candidate membership in a group of exosapient species who have a loose alliance to protect both their own interests and possibly the interests of species new to interstellar travel, and, oh, yes, romance. There is a lot to play with here, and I enjoyed the story as it developed.

This book started out as a 5-star but ultimately disappointed me a bit. I will certainly read the next one if it does develop into a series to see how the plot unfolds, but I felt let down since my hopes had been so high. I was reading a book about developing exoplanets, scheming corporations, and the discovery of a new species that was endangered by the development. Then, rather abruptly, this whole thread was dropped, and the story turns to humanity’s encounter with more advanced races that are considering adding us to their accord. Of all the many themes mentioned above, only one comes to anything like a conclusion; that is the question of the missing 4 days, and even it was unsatisfactory to me, because I found the rationale for the 13-year sleep inadequate. Unless I am missing something (and please enlighten me if I am), the title itself, Fire with Fire, refers to a strategy that is conceived but not implemented in this book. What happened to the little creatures on Delta Pavonis Three, for example? There is no indication that this is the beginning of a series, but even if it is, I should have felt more of a sense of closure. This is a novel, not a TV series.

This book is being considered for the Compton Crook Award for best first SF novel and, despite my criticism, is a worthy contender.

NOTE: I generally try not to disagree with other reviewers---people’s reactions vary---but I am very surprised that some feel the female characters are portrayed as stereotypical weaklings. How can you call Opal a weakling when she regularly bests Caine at martial arts training and fells the bad guys with regularity? I thought the scene where she displays a very particular fear is just the author’s way of showing that even the toughest guys have some vulnerabilities. On the contrary, as I read about Opal and Elena I thought, “Here is one I can recommend to my feminist friends!” These are strong competent women.

NOTE 2: This book is available in a number of electronic formats directly from http://www.baenebooks.com/ , a site I like a lot especially because of their Baen Free Library, which has some really good SF!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Beau.
249 reviews5 followers
May 13, 2013
In the classic movie, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," the opening scene shows a coin being tossed repeatedly. And always coming up heads. "Heads."
It goes on long enough for the viewer to realize that the laws of probability have been suspended here, and will remain suspended hereafter. If you haven't seen it, go watch the movie and come back to this review later. This isn't important, and it will keep.

I read a lot of sci-fi, and I get a head start on a lot of it by looking at http://jiltanith.thefifthimperium.com/. The guy has an RSS feed that puts up chapters of sci-fi books from time to time, and I get some ideas about upcoming books by looking there.

That's only mentioned here because it explains how I was able to read this book in a single sitting yesterday. I had already seen 8 or 10 chapters online. I bought the Kindle Edition and finished it quickly.

This isn't everyone's cup of tea, I understand. The protagonist, Caine Riordon, seems to be on top of every situation, except maybe a couple with women. He just doesn't make mistakes. Me, I'm fine with that, but some people like their fiction to be more realistic.

And in fairness, sometimes it's just too easy for the good guys. There is a scene where a woman was abducted, and a soldier goes to rescue her. There must be a dozen instances in that scene where his planning could have gone either way, and it goes, "Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads ..." It's that kind of story, and despite any reservations about likelihood, I like to just go with it and hope that the good guys win in the end and the guy gets the girl. Well, sometimes.

This book sets up a series very nicely. I care about the people in it, and I can't wait to see what happens when the different space men choose up sides and start fighting.

It's a quick read, with spaceships and steely eyed missile men and steely eyed missile women and aliens and betrayals and mysteries that remain to be explained in another book.

I'm ready for the next one now!
Profile Image for Jeffrey Schmieder.
206 reviews6 followers
September 18, 2021
Very good novel for military sci-fi guys. Caine helps to save the world after an alien invasion. Lots of action.
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,231 reviews128 followers
June 23, 2016
First off - if you don't count Orson Scott Card, this is only my second SciFi novel, so I don't have a lot of comparison.

I bought this, because I decided to read the Nebula Award nominees.

I got into the story quite fast, and it was a good and fun read.
It was not exactly what I was expecting - especially in the beginning it felt more like a spy/action novel with cold storage units, than SciFi.
It's only in the second half. that we get to see a bit of a spaceship, and meet more then the one single "Alien" from the first half.

I liked both parts, and especially that the POV characters all got greek code names, and the chapters therefore are headed "Odysseus" or "Circe" and so on.

But I also had some problems with the book.
The main character Caine is - simply said - perfect. Too perfect. He get's minimal training, but he manages to stay on top of every situation throughout the book, and of course all women love him.

I missed a bit more "spacey" stuff ;) I love Star Trek, Doctor Who and such TV series, so I missed my "warp drives" "quantum fluctuations" and such.

The Aliens were a bit stereotype for me.

All in all I would have wanted to give 3,5 half stars, but since that's not possible I'll round it up to 4 stars.
Profile Image for H. P..
607 reviews30 followers
October 20, 2017
I’m not going to say much about the plot of Fire with Fire. One, because the backcover copy. Two, because it’s difficult to say much about the plot without spoilers. And the twists—there are several—are what Fire With Fire does best.

Fire with Fire is a funny book. As a science fiction book, there are a lot of cool ideas. As a thriller, Gannon has a nice grasp on tension and the twist. But, again, as a science fiction book, it fails at worldbuilding. There is too much telling, and not enough showing. Sometimes in explanation of those twists, in a nice example of the sometimes inevitable tensions between genres. It does read easy, more like a 350-page book than a 700-page book. They fade as the book progresses, but Gannon has annoying tics, none more so than Caine’s status as a polymath. Merriam-Webster tells me that, in our world, a polymath is “a person of encyclopedic learning.” In the world on Fire with Fire, on the other hand, it’s a goddamn super power. Too much of the book is burned on characters marveling over Caine the polymath or explaining something we could have been shown.
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