Al Fin Affictionado

A Combination of Original Fiction and Reviews of Fiction Interesting to Al Fin and Contributors All Works Copyright as of publish date, AlFin2100 blog syndicate

Location: North America

Primary interest is seeing that the best of humanity survives long enough to reach the next level.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Off Armageddon Reef, by David Weber

David Weber is best known for his Honor Harrington novels, and has authored several other novels. Off Armageddon Reef is the first David Weber novel that I have read.

This novel begins in the 24th century, when Earth's interstellar empire is under seige by a fierce spacegoing race called the Gbaba. The Gbaba had been ruthlessly eliminating other spacegoing races for thousands of years before humans began seeding the galaxy. Although humans were learning quickly, they simply did not have time to match the overwhelming genocidal force that the Gbaba could bring to bear. All human star settlements, including the home planet of Earth, were destroyed by the Gbaba.

A wild deception by the few remaining human space military officials allowed a few million colonists to escape many thousands of light years away from Earth. But the Gbaba would find them eventually, and when they did, they would exterminate all humans they could find. So the humans in command decided to "erase" all traces of advanced technology--no radio, no electricity, no advanced communication etc--so as to make it harder for the Gbaba to locate the escaped human outpost.

The way this was done, and the lengths to which these authorities were willing to go to hide the hideout planet from the Gbaba, are what creates a lot of the conflict in the novel.

The rest of the conflict comes from a superhuman android called Merlin that possessed the memories and personality of a 28 year old female Lieutenant in the Terran Federation Space Navy who had died while making the escape of the last human colonists possible, but wakes up 500 years later in an android body. This "reincarnated" woman finds herself on a planet run by men, for men. The android's special abilities allow her to enter the world as a man--a very fast, very strong man, with a large fleet of stealth machine spies that allow Merlin to keep track of the political activities of every government on the new Earth.

The conflict between the system of religious government designed to hide the colony from their genocidal spacegoing enemies, and the android Merline--who wants to be sure that humans are ready to meet the Gbaba when the time comes--drives a large part of the novel.

I happen to be a sucker for the post-apocalyptic novel where a low technology society must develop advanced technology in order to survive against certain catastrophe. So the setup of this novel was right, for me.

And although the writing is fairly crisp and skilled, and the characters generally sympathetic or properly villanous, there was one thing about this novel that was destined to ruin the overall effect for me: it is written as a lead-in for what is likely to be a long series of books.

At almost 600 pages long, most readers including myself, expect more. Unfortunately, there was too much padding, too much unnecessary detail in the wrong places. The book would have been better at 350 or 400 pages, with a ruthless editor.

If you are going to make your reader go through 600 pages for a mere introduction to a new universe, you need to give him more meat to chew on. The setup was great, the introduction of Merlin was good, and the conspiracy of the church against the kingdom of Charis was logical and suitably treacherous.

But a book that begins with the near extermination of all humanity should not end with the mere sea victory of one small kingdom on what may or may not be the last outpost of humanity.

Like I said, I have not read anything that Weber has written previously, so this may be a formula that he feels has worked for him. It does not work for me. I may look at the next book in the series to see if Weber has broadened his scope, but based upon this book my hopes are not raised.

Off Armageddon Reef, by David Weber

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Am Here--Where Are You?

To make more babies, we must have both male and female. That is what everyone was saying, but I don't think we younger ones understood. We were all girls. That is all we knew, except for Ko's sick grandfather, who always lay in bed, lost to the world.

Ko would sometimes take small groups of us girls into her grandfather's room. Ko lifted the blankets to show us his manhood, like she was displaying a fabulous jewel or a grand feast. We all giggled, but when Ko asked us, we were too shy to touch it. He is dead now.

The older boys had gone with the men to find others like us. They had listened to a radio signal asking for help. The signal said that savages who spoke a different tongue were attacking them. They said they needed our help. The men have been gone now for over five years.

There have been no children for more than four years now. All the younger children were girls. No one knew why. Old Hana says that it was something in the fish, or the seaweed. She said it was something from the old wars, long ago. Before, when there were boy babies, most of them died before their first year. Now there are no babies at all.Hana is our healer. She was also our midwife, but there has been no need for that service lately. Hana is old, and is training Jun to take her place. She told my mother that she tries to teach Jun how to midwife, but Jun asks her why? Without men there can be no babies. Hana tries to tell her that the men may return, but Jun will not listen. Among the men who left on the rescue mission were Jun's husband and 14 year old son.

My father died before I reached my second year, in a fishing accident. I don't remember him, but my mother says he was a happy man. She says he wanted to teach me to fish, when I was older. Mother says this would have been against the traditions of the clan, since only boys may learn to fish. Mother says that father had many new ideas that were different from the traditions. She says he told her the clan would have to change to survive.

Of course, now the women must fish, for there are no men. Because the women were not taught the way of the sea when they were young, they only go out when the sea is calm. Mother says there is not as much fish to eat now as there was before. She says some of the boats cannot be repaired, and there are not enough women to crew them anyway, so that even on good days the clan cannot send as many boats out.

We eat a lot of rice. Although the fields are small, there are not nearly as many to feed now. The women are very good rice farmers, and the harvests have been good, mother says.

I Am Here--Where Are You?
Newer Posts Older Posts