RogerBW's Blog

Demons of the Void, David Adams 28 May 2018

2011 military science fiction, first of an ongoing series. In 2029, previously-unknown aliens destroy three cities, with a warning: "Never again attempt to develop this kind of technology." Earth responds in the only way possible: space battleships! Spoilers.

I was reminded of those SF stories from the 1960s, as the alien attitude in popular consciousness shifted from "we want your women" or "we are Space Commies" to "whoa, you humans are far too dangerous to be let out on the interstellar scene". This is a story in which the aliens are entirely justified in having that attitude.

There are a bunch of miracle technologies all developed at the same time: super-tough armour plating, a reactionless thruster, artificial gravity, and a jump drive. Which doesn't work within a gravity field, but at Lagrange points there's no gravity [sic], so it can instantly hop between any of them, including over interstellar distances.

It's the last one that turns out to be the forbidden technology, because unless you're extremely careful with it it has a small but non-zero probability of creating a black hole and destroying your entire solar system. That seems to me like a fairly good reason to try to discourage people from messing about with them. (But these aliens are pretty stupid, so rather than say "that's nifty, please now join the Galactic Federation where jump drives are kept under strict control" they blew up three cities with apparently no plan for what to do next.)

But Humanity Must Be Free! So space battleships. When our viewpoint character is taking one of the three on its shakedown cruise, she spots an enemy scout ship… and immediately attacks, with no attempt at communication. (Her XO objects, but he's a Bad Person and therefore Wrong.)

The one prisoner from this engagement goes from "what a pity our species can't possibly ever get along" to "I will tell you everything about my side" quietly and off-camera.

Later an alien computer system is casually cracked and decoded.

When people aren't being heroic, they screw. A lot.

When the enemy uses space fighters, the heroic Earthians invent space fighters of their own and have them ready to deploy in a few weeks.

There's no military discipline aboard this warship. A mutineer is patted on the back and given a lower-responsibility duty. (This doesn't go well.) Adams doesn't seem to know how chains of command work.

At times this feels like a deliberate parody of military SF, because Adams is apparently aware that behaving stupidly will often lead to bad results… but he still has his characters behaving stupidly, and we're apparently meant to feel sympathy for them.

The writing is sort of OK-ish, though the surprising plot twists are very predictable; the book isn't over-long; but I have no interest in reading more about these people or this universe. Followed by The Sands of Karathi.

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 12:49pm on 28 May 2018

    Thanks for the review. Another in the 'Roger read this so we don't have to' pile!

    To the 'Dr Bob read this so you don't have to' pile I'd add Blue Platoon, a paranormal romance (where romance = badly written porn). Another where the writer has heard of the military but doesn't know how it works. Like the 4 special forces guys who just decide to quit one day and take a new recruit with them, and no-one bats an eyelid. Or one of them using a sniper rifle as the ideal weapon to inflict mildly inconvenient flesh wounds. Or their specially constructed secret room in their base which they lovingly detailed on the planning permission documents they filed with the local council, so their enemies know exactly where is. Or a grenade launcher which fires grenades which you can scoop up off the floor and throw back...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:47pm on 28 May 2018

    It's only fair; I've had several solid recommendations (both pro and anti) off your reading lists.

    I've certainly met players who think sniper rifles are ideal for inflicting flesh wounds, but…

  3. Posted by Michael Cule at 04:01pm on 28 May 2018

    I think your review needs exclamation points (possibly multiple exclamation points) after each use of the phrase 'Space Battleships'.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 04:02pm on 28 May 2018

    Yeah, sorry, Markdown doesn't support 72-point flashing text either.

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