Evan Currie, Into the Black: Odyssey I
Normally, I’d say it’s bad form to criticize a book because it’s not the kind of book you want to read. The obvious answer to that is, “Go read something you like better.” It’s just that, I do read books I like better, but all Amazon ever suggests to me, based on what I’ve already read, is military sci-fi, which is a frustrating puzzlement, since I don’t read military science fiction, and don’t care for it, as a rule.
But based on the description of this book, I really thought it would go beyond just military sci-fi. Granted, it’s categorized as military sci-fi, but the book description talks about “wonders” and “a galaxy and universe much larger and more varied than anyone on Earth can possibly imagine,” “rich mythology,” and describes itself as “an epic adventure.”
So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect, well, something a hell of a lot more imaginative than intrepid soldiers and their subtly-disdained “geek” hangers-on (i.e., scientists and engineers) from Earth meeting other human beings in space and helping them fight off some two-dimensional alien baddies we learn little about.
Although meeting other humans in space does raise some intriguing questions of “where did they come from?,” you don’t have to think long on that question to come to some eye-rolling answers. Either they came from Earth, too (likely, given the lack of significant genetic drift between us and this other race), and likely long after the time period they seem to claim they were already out here living in their advanced society. Or, alternatively, we all came from “out there,” with Earth being seeded by some extraterrestrial means (unlikely, given the scientific evidence of our gradual evolutionary origins on Earth, and, again the lack of significant genetic drift between us and this other race–in other words, if Earth were seeded by an alien life form that also gave rise to these colonial worlds, it would have had to have happened long before humans evolved on Earth).
There’s a truism in today’s science fiction writing that whether you are writing for TV and film (which now has CGI special effects), and especially if you are not, show some imagination. You don’t need human actors to play all the roles anymore, alien or otherwise, so you don’t need human-like aliens, and you certainly don’t need Earth humans to go out into space and find… other humans!
Although the author shows some sophistication in his knowledge of history of martial philosophy, he definitely has his own point of view, and his story is set up to support it. The bad guys are Nasty and uncomplicatedly so. They want only to Lay Waste To Your World and show no mercy in doing so. Any species that doesn’t prepare a steady percentage of their population to be the Noble Warriors standing between their people and That look like a race of fools. Somehow, these Colonials have managed to get away with not doing so for a long time, but now their “foolish” peacefulness has caught up with them. Wait. They’re the fools for being able to live peacefully, productively, and with advancing technology for millennia without the endless cycle of wretched want, ego-driven war-mongering leaders, and cultural misunderstandings that have made Captain Weston and his ilk necessary in the first place on Earth? Currie assumes his own conclusion.
I understand the necessity of self-defense, but never mock or downplay the attainment of peace, and all the things it can mean.
Despite all this, Currie almost had me for book two at the end until the reveal that the Drossen were puppets for a different, more sinister, (and yes, admittedly) more complex race. My thought when I read that was, “You mean this same story line drags on? They’re not going to discover anything new out there in space, just keep fighting this war?”
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind stories that include a few characters in the military, or even a battle or two, as long as that’s not the whole point.
If you like military science fiction, this is well written, well-plotted, has some interesting, three-dimensional characters. If you want more in space than aliens that want to blow you to kingdom come, you’re out of luck here.
I’ll keep looking out for interesting Exploration and Adventure series in the Space Opera genre, and keep reading them and enjoying them and having Amazon suggest, based on those, more Military Science Fiction. What gives?