I hardly know where to begin with this review. There’s so much I love about this book, from its well thought-out and detailed futuristic world-building, to its treatment of how the history of present-day Earth is reconstructed in the distant future, to the way it blends political intrigue, action, romance and just a dash of humor into an effective story.
The novel follows the crew of ESS Springbok, a powerful military spaceship. The Springbok becomes entangled in an battle precipitated by a powerful politician’s son. From there, the crew takes on a group of rough but honorable space marines, and sees more than their share of ground and space combat as they fight through more conflicts created by the political machinations of scheming politicians and bureaucrats.
The characters are great. There’s the honorable Captain Evander McCray of the Springbok and his lover, the lethal super-spy Aja Coopersmith. The villains are eminently hate-able, and there are other characters who are neither all good nor all bad. Captain Chahine, who commands a huge ship that battles the Springbok, was a particular favorite of mine.
There are also some great references to history sprinkled throughout. Captain McCray’s interest in piecing together Earth’s history starts out as just an amusing bit of comic relief, but it ultimately becomes key to the climactic battle sequence when, inspired by Hannibal’s use of elephants, he…
Ah, no; I can’t spoil it. Because it’s brilliant. An ingenious bit of world-building that becomes important to the plot, that’s all I’ll say.
I do quibble with the number of times that secondary female characters are forced to suffer at the hands of the villains. Female characters who exist just to let baddies prove their badness is a bit of a pet peeve of mine; although I can hardly argue with its effectiveness in making readers hate the villains.
Apart from that, this is basically a perfect book for me. It came recommended by Audrey Driscoll, and as with Lorinda Taylor’s Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars series, I’m so grateful to her for bringing it to my attention. It’s another wonderful example of how to do sci-fi, using an imaginary futuristic world both as a vehicle for exploring deep ideas about society and human nature as well as envisioning new technologies. And it does all that while still telling a gripping story with memorable characters.
If you like sci-fi, especially military sci-fi—and I know many people who read this blog do—you have to read this book. It’s a gem of the genre, pure and simple.
Now, I have a question only an economist would ask. And the fact that I’m even asking this question is a testament to the world-building here.
The citizens of the Egalitarian Stars of Elysium use the barter system. Supposedly, this makes them more advanced than the primitive Madkhal, who use fiat currency. We’re to believe that nanites and additive manufacturing eliminate the need for currency in such a developed civilization.
Maybe it’s a failure of my imagination, but I have trouble buying this. (No pun intended.) If their manufacturing capabilities are really so good as that, then they haven’t made fiat currency obsolete, they’ve made trade obsolete. Either people have items of different worth for trading, or they don’t. If they do, than they need a reliable medium of exchange and store of value to express it. If they don’t, then they don’t need to trade. If you and I both have the ability to produce for ourselves everything that we need, we have no reason to trade with each other. Tell me if I’m wrong about this.
Again, it’s a credit to how invested I became in this universe that I was even thinking about this issue. So don’t let it stop you from buying—or, for that matter, bartering for—this fantastic book.
I’m glad you liked this book, Berthold. It wasn’t something I’d usually read, but I joined a Reading Round on Goodreads and it was one of the four books I had to read. That’s one of the good things about Reading Rounds–you read books you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Cool! I hadn’t heard of “Reading Rounds.” That sounds like fun.
It is a way to get a few more reviews and read books you probably wouldn’t have. I don’t know if you’re active on Goodreads, but it’s part of the Review Group: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/78683-review-group. Scroll down to “Reading Rounds” and have a look.
Thanks for mentioning my series one more time. Appreciate it!
My pleasure! 🙂
Book sounds interesting. One of my peeves with Star Trek is their insistence on no currency. Everyone works for the good of others. Garbage. What makes a working economy is when it’s regulated against fraud and graft.
I think you’d like this book, Pat. I know I did, despite my gripes about the economics.
Nice review. Like the “Ah no, I can’t spoil it” especially as I was ready to read how Hannibal’s elephants tied in 😁
Don’t know if I want to read it though; I really do not like female characters used in that way simply to prove a point.
The worst part is, those scenes added nothing relevant to the story. Which as you can tell, I thought was a great one overall, but I can certainly understand not wanting to read it because of that issue alone.
Interesting review. I’m glad you stopped yourself from revealing any spoilers. 🙂
“Female characters who exist just to let baddies prove their badness is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.” Me too, but only if it happens repeatedly. Hopefully male characters suffer before the baddies too. Lol
And on your last topic – bartering is actually a very good way to promote community interdependence and was quite successful in ancient times. Sadly, it’s almost impossible if there’s going to be widespread trade among large civilizations (I actually researched his for a book!)
You’ve intrigued me with this review. Well done!
Thanks very much for the comment! Glad you liked the review. 🙂
Thanks very much for the review, Berthold. I appreciate your honesty in the things you liked, and you did not like. Very much appreciated. Any chance this review could show up on Amazon?
Either way, the next book in the series is due out in a couple months. If you want more of McCray, Aja, and company, it’s coming soon.
My pleasure. And yes, I’ll try to post on Amazon, although their track record with posting my reviews of indie books in a timely fashion is pretty spotty. :/ But, I will try to at least post it on Goodreads.
Looking forward to the next one! 🙂
Okay, the review should now be up on Goodreads. Not on Amazon yet…