Gary's Reviews > Fire with Fire

Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon
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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.
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Reading Progress

May 17, 2014 – Started Reading
May 17, 2014 – Shelved
May 17, 2014 –
page 42
May 17, 2014 –
page 46
May 17, 2014 –
page 67
May 19, 2014 –
page 74
May 22, 2014 –
page 95
May 25, 2014 –
page 149
May 25, 2014 –
page 166
May 26, 2014 –
page 192
May 28, 2014 –
page 199
October 19, 2014 –
page 204
October 19, 2014 –
page 218
October 19, 2014 –
page 242
October 20, 2014 –
page 264
October 21, 2014 –
page 271
November 13, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Diane (new)

Diane Wallace Nice n honest review, Gary!

Gary Diane wrote: "Nice n honest review, Gary!"

Thanks, Diane!

Peter Tillman Now this one, I pretty much hated, and abandoned it pretty early on. But tastes differ!

Gary Peter wrote: "Now this one, I pretty much hated, and abandoned it pretty early on. But tastes differ!"


Jeffrey Schmieder It does get better, the last third of the novel was my favorite part.

Gary Jeffrey wrote: "It does get better, the last third of the novel was my favorite part."

Agreed. I'm still reading the series, actually. The third book is my favorite, the fifth one a close second.

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