RogerBW's Blog

Alien Arcana, Glynn Stewart 19 November 2022

2016 SF, fourth of its series. On an archaeological site light years from Earth, an academic magician makes an interesting discovery… and is promptly murdered.

Because this isn't, for the most part, a story about the discovery and its implications. This is a story about a conspiracy of secrecy, one that seems to have agents everywhere, and one which very nearly succeeds.

I think that may be one of the things I like about this series. Damian Montgomery, Hand of Mars and Rune-Wright, is tremendously powerful: he can, single-handedly, defend a planetary base against kinetic and nuclear attack from space! But he never feels as though he's getting a free pass: there's a cost to this power, and even at his most potent he still needs to be aware of an assassin or a bomb before he can do anything about them. (So he gets a space marine bodyguard.)

A subtle point here is that the conspiracy probably started off as an honest thing, temporarily keeping some secrets that would be revealed when the time was right… but now it's two generations later, and they've sunk far enough into the end-justifying-means mindset that there is essentially no limit to the atrocities they're prepared to commit, or the collateral damage they're prepared to accept, in the name of keeping the secrets. It's ferociously hard to tell a story of this sort and keep me engaged, and Stewart convinces me both that the secret could have been kept this long and that this particular guy could break it.

Yes, all right, it's a bit of a wrench from the overarching plotline that we've been seeing in earlier books, but I suspect things will become clearer as the story progresses. (This does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, and with many questions unanswered.)

The series so far has been mostly military SF with a bit of a twist, but this takes it in a different direction – which I suspect will annoy the people who came for the military SF, though there's still plenty of action here. There are various technical problems (like the way certain pieces of tech are explained at length each book), but there's something about Stewart's writing that keeps me enthusiastic.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Voice of Mars | Series: Starship's Mage | Next in series: Judgment of Mars

  1. Posted by David Pulver at 11:19pm on 21 November 2022

    This sounds interesting enough that I've just ordered the first one in the series (which I see you also reviewed).

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:24am on 22 November 2022

    Don't expect a new classic of Western literature, but as action-focused SF goes, this manages to avoid many of the usual things that irk me, while having enough good stuff to retain my enthusiasm.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1