RogerBW's Blog

They Also Serve, Mike Moscoe 06 October 2015

2001 military SF, third in the Jump Universe series. At the same time as the events of The Price of Peace, Ray Longknife's exploration ship has comprehensively misjumped to where a much earlier lost ship founded a colony. But they aren't the only things on the planet.

There's a fair bit of stuff going on here. The politics and factions of the planet might have been enough for some authors: the founders were clearly argumentative libertarians and have set up a system without governmental coercion, which stops it from reacting effectively to a crisis, but that hasn't prevented rich individuals from setting up their own power bases and being just as nasty as a government could have been.

At the same time, there's a gradual revelation of ancient super-tech on the planet, which has its own view of how humans should comport themselves, and potentially the power to enforce it. This leads into the finale, which is a war of humans and super-tech AIs against other humans and super-tech AIs: the battle lines aren't as simplistically drawn as one might have feared.

There do seem to be structural problems. One of the AIs can in theory rearrange molecules of all sorts, which one would think could be a bit overpowering; this shifts without comment to "scrambling human DNA" and then doesn't get used. The ending is very abrupt, and wraps things up not only over-neatly but in ways that haven't been foreshadowed. The main human villain is just ignored.

I don't get such a feeling of enthusiasm here as I did with the previous two books. It's not bad, and there's some excellent character development, but it feels like a side story modelled after a sort of book Poul Anderson liked to write, where a bunch of unlikely heroes are marooned on an alien puzzle-world and have to solve it to get away.

Followed, some years later once the Kris Longknife series had taken off, by To Do or Die.

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