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Books : reviews

Eric Flint.
Mother of Demons.
Baen. 1997

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 24 February 2004

A human colony ship has crash landed, killing most of the colonists, and possibly leaving the rest to starve on a hostile planet. But then some of the local creatures start to feed them. Gradually, they come to understand the planet, and realise it has sentient life on the verge of civilisation. And that can mean only one thing -- war!

The plot is a bit slow to get going, as each of the first few chapters devoted to one of the multiple viewpoints. But this is a complex alien society, and needs some explanation. The action is what one would expect -- high tech humans having to fight low tech battles, and doing so very well. But the native aliens are no dumb savages standing still for the slaughter -- they have complex societies and warfare technologies, and interesting personalities. As usual, rather a lot of coincidences move the plot along, but there's some good stuff along the way. Read for the world building (delivered as some rather tongue-in-cheek info-dumps) and the wonderful alien physiologies -- a whole integrated ecology of alien physiologies!

Eric Flint.
The Philosophical Strangler.
Baen. 2001

rating : 6 : unfinishable
review : 1 February 2004

This is a "low fantasy" assassin adventure, where the plot hook is the great hulking strangler, Greyboar, has been bitten by the philosophy bug, and so is more interested in discussing abstruse theories with his intended victims than in offing them, much to the dismay of his agent Ignace.

I read the Prologue (previously published as the 1993 short story "Entropy and the Strangler"), which sets up the plot elements. I didn't get any further, because the "humour" just doesn't work for me. The best bit is a rather mild pun on "xenophobia". But I found it rather spare on jokes, and those more distasteful than funny, I'm afraid. I'll keep to Flint's hi-tech mayhem tales in future.

Eric Flint, Ryk E. Spoor.
Boundary.
Baen. 2006

Eric Flint, Ryk E. Spoor.
Threshold.
Baen. 2010

Eric Flint, Ryk E. Spoor.
Portal.
Baen. 2013

Madeline Fathom had miraculously landed the crippled exploration ship the Nebula Storm on Europa. There she joined on that frozen moon of Jupiter the stranded crewmembers of the ill-fated EU vessel Odin. There is no hope of rescue, and their only hope is to make Nebula Storm fly again. But Europa has one more discovery waiting for them… a discovery that might be the deadliest trap in the Solar System…

Eric Flint, Ryk E. Spoor.
Castaway Planet.
Baen. 2015

Eric Flint, K. D. Wentworth.
The Course of Empire.
Baen. 2003

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 23 July 2012

20 years ago the Jao conquered Earth in a savage and bloody battle. They are now tyrannical occupiers, claiming they are preparing for attack by the semi-mythical Ekhat. Humans don't believe them. Into this comes newly appointed Subcommandant Aille, who is horrified to learn about the tyrannous rule, and the way it is stopping Jao and humans working together in preparation for the Ekhart. Behind the scenes, shadowy figures scheme for their own ends.

This is a good alien invasion story, with both sides having good guys and bad guys. It's good to have superior aliens (although there are strong indications they aren't all that superior in some ways, and good old Terran know-how will come into its own). They are alien enough to be interestingly different, but not so alien as to be incomprehensible (unlike the bizarre Ekhat!). There's good closure at the end of the book, but there is clearly more to come.

Eric Flint, K. D. Wentworth.
The Crucible of Empire.
Baen. 2010

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 28 August 2012

It's two years since the Jao and humans resolved their differences, and started to cooperate in their fight against the Ekhat. Some Jao spaceships have discovered what might be the remnants of a Lleix outpost. The Jao have a guilty conscience about the Lleix, who they hunted to near extermination back when they were still enslaved by the Ekhat. A human-Jao expedition sets off to contact the outpost, but how will they be received?

This is an interesting sequel to the original invasion story, gradually building up a coherent defence against the horrific and incomprehensible Ekhat. Here we get a new alien race. I hope the series continues (and with rather less than seven years until the next one!), as I want to see how all these diverse aliens with their different cultures manage to get on together.

Eric Flint.
1632.
Baen. 2000

David Weber, Eric Flint.
1633.
Baen. 2003

David Weber, Eric Flint.
Crown of Slaves.
Baen. 2003

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 27 December 2003

This is the first of a promised a new series set in the Honorverse. We have already met some of the characters in Eric Flint's short stories "From the Highlands" and "Fanatic" (and, to a lesser extent, in Jane Lindskold's "Promised Land" and David Weber's "The Service of the Sword", demonstrating there is some coordination going on here!). This story builds on the background established there, particularly the fight against Manpower and its trade in genetic slavery.

The action takes place prior to the resolution of War of Honor, and concerns the High Ridge Government's high-handed and dishonest approach to its ally, Erewhon. Everyone is going to Erewhon for a big funeral, which gives the opportunity for lots of different factions to meet. Haven's super spy Victor Cachat is there to woo Erewhon; a faction of the Sollies are there on some black op; even the Masadans are there. To join this crew, along goes Anton Zilwicki, his adopted daughter Berry, and Princess Ruth. Political shenanigans and hijinks ensue.

The plot races along even faster than vintage Weber -- I didn't spot a single ship's spec, and the political lecturing is restricted to brief paragraphs, rather than full chapters. The whole plot revolves around some huge coincidences of the right people in the right place at the right time, but these do at least smooth its passage. The resolution -- the new chosen leader of the liberated planet -- is frankly ludicrous. But the whole thing is a fun breath of fresh air -- the Honorverse is back the way it should be!

David Weber, Eric Flint.
Torch of Freedom.
Baen. 2009

Dave Freer, Eric Flint.
Rats, Bats and Vats.
Baen. 2000

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 28 June 2005

It's war on the Shareholder colony world of Harmony And Reason, recently invaded by millions of the hive-mind Magh'. Things are going badly for the humans. Fortunately, help is at hand, in the shape of the spiney Korozhet, whose soft-cyber implants have helped the humans uplift bats and rats to be intelligent soldiers. Or rather, intelligent cannon fodder, as the elite shareholders are uniquely incompetent in fighting a war. Chip Connolly, human vat-grown one-time apprentice chef and now conscript soldier, along with a squad of bats and rats with attitude, find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. Whilst attempting to escape, they stumble across captive shareholder Virginia Shaw, and her Korozhet tutor. After rescuing them, things go steadily from bad to worse, until the squad find themselves taking on the whole Magh' hive...

A fun "war from the perspective of the grunts" tale -- with all the crude humour, caricatured officers, and mud, guts, and violence, that that entails. But there is great characterisation of the various uplifted species, and of the aliens. The identity of the bad guy is apparent very early, but the battles are fun and imaginative, and the tension and humour kept at a high level. Good rollicking fun, with occasional dark patches.