RogerBW's Blog

Her Brother's Keeper, Mike Kupari 04 January 2018

2015 military SF. Catherine Blackwood is a privateer ship's captain, which in practice means mercenary; a new contract has her employed by her estranged father to haul her idiot brother back out of whatever trouble he's got himself into.

There are plenty of milsf warning signs here: publication by Baen, an author whose previous credits are collaborations with another Baen author (Larry Correia in this case), and an author who's been an ordnance disposal tech and security contractor… who has one major character who's a former ordnance disposal tech and current security contractor. And the setting certainly feels like one carefully set up so that people who think like veterans of the war in Afghanistan can exist in The Future.

But on the other hand, while the story is certainly unoriginal, it's distinctly well-written. With a split perspective we don't really get enough of any of the primary characters, but while they're often undeveloped they do at least manifest reasonable amounts of personality. The plot complications make sense and arise out of previous events.

The tech works, largely because Kupari has clearly inhaled Winchell Chung's excellent Atomic Rockets site (and I know it was this one both because I recognise some of the specific details and because Chung gets a namecheck within the story). If you want to write physically plausible spaceships while not being a rocket scientist yourself, this is the site to use for reference. Apart from the spaceships this isn't a particularly futury future; people may have air-cars and occasional powered armour, but they still mostly fire bullets at each other.

There are elements of picaresque: on the way to the rescue, the ship and crew deal with a variety of local entanglements, which sometimes feel as if they were taken from a Traveller campaign… except that they're worked out so that they make sense in context, rather than feeling like façades of complication applied to Generic Planet #367B.

Culture doesn't seem to have drifted much in several hundred years of spacefaring; sure, people may not remember who Napoleon was, but they don't have much in the way of new traditions and references to replace him. Oh, and there don't seem to be any democracies left, just monarchy, dictatorship and anarchy.

This is space opera in a 1980s style, but it largely works. Don't expect a modern style of storytelling or characterisation, but this is a solid piece and I'd like to read more. Recommended by Ashley R Pollard.

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