RogerBW's Blog

Lt. Leary, Commanding, David Drake 12 December 2020

2000 military SF, second of this ongoing series. With a heroic reputation from the previous book, which can be both good and bad depending on who has power over him, Leary waits to learn his next assignment… then gets sent to a volatile allied world where political games are rapidly becoming deadly.

The first book told of a single incident, but this is more spread out, particularly in the early sections; there are foreshadowings of the political situation, but there's also random naval bureaucracy and other non-lethal character development. For me it works, but it does mean that as the two viewpoint characters don't really know what's going on until relatively late neither does the reader (though one can make some obvious guesses, it's a while until they are confirmed).

(And it's still not entirely clear just who set up the assassination attempt.)

One of the ways in which a good reputation is bad for Leary is that ship, with full crew-requisition rights from other ships as long as the crew themselves want to come on, is sent to join a squadron of old and under-crewed warships (with an old commodore whose career is clearly on the way down) on what should be a routine flag-showing mission. It isn't, of course, and on this showing (three allied planets, two of them thoroughly subverted by the enemy until someone showed up to fix it) one doesn't feel that this Republic is doing terribly well at its transition into Empire.

At the same time, Adele Mundy is perhaps too good at what she does; she casually breaks into computers that shouldn't even be connected to a network, cracks military-grade ciphers, and generally acts as Deity of All Things Electronic. I realise it would be an error to go into detail about how she works, but some sign that she's facing serious opposition would be welcome.

Adele put the data unit away, a trifle awkward because she wasn't used to keeping it in this purse. "I've been accused of being overly literal," she said dryly. "It appears to me that that wouldn't be a problem if fewer people were underprecise."

What worked rather well for me was more explanation of the imaginary physics of the world: clearly it was set up to have sailing spaceships, and large crews aboard them, but in this book without too much technobabble we get away from the mere Napoleonic homage and into the tactics that this system allows, as well as the problems that it imposes (for example, you want your riggers outside for hyperspace transitions in case the sail-handling machinery fails, which it generally does; but if they're outside in a battle, they'll die).

Undemanding but well done and enjoyable.

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Previous in series: With the Lightnings | Series: RCN | Next in series: The Far Side of the Stars

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