RogerBW's Blog

Mage-Provocateur, Glynn Stewart 13 October 2023

2018 SF, second of its sub-series. David Rice is still being hunted by people trying for the bounty posted by the crime lord he killed. Fortunately his covert-ops backers want those guys taken off the table too.

We're still before Hand of Mars in the series' chronology, but Stewart is taking advantage of knowing what's coming up later in the timeline to do some foreshadowing. This also makes things pleasingly multi-factional: the covert operators from Legatus don't like well-funded pirates either, even if they aren't on good terms with the Martian government who are secretly backing Red Falcon.

Things are still on a smaller scale than in the main Starship's Mage series, but there are still Great Big Space Battles. I think most crucially to me I never felt that the good guys were having it too easy, even as they have influence over resources well beyond what ought to be available to the simple merchant ship they're pretending to be – because the bad guys are well-equipped, and competent, too. (And at the same time I never felt that the bad guys were so overwhelming that victory could only come through authorial fiat.)

There's a three-way relationship which doesn't quite ring true for me, though I applaud Stewart for giving it a go. There's plenty of personal growth for everyone.

Sure, this is not Great Literature and nobody's going to nominate it for a Hugo award, but it's action SF with both a brain and a heart, rather than the sort of thing you have to stop thinking to enjoy. The characters' personal lives matter just as much as their heavy ordnance. So when the fights happen, I care about the characters, rather than just seeing paper dolls dancing across the page.

That should perhaps be a bare minimum of quality, but lots of published SF can't manage it. So hurrah for Stewart!

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Previous in series: Interstellar Mage | Series: Starship's Mage | Next in series: Hand of Mars
Previous in series: Interstellar Mage | Series: Starship's Mage Red Falcon | Next in series: Agents of Mars

  1. Posted by John P at 09:27pm on 13 October 2023

    I think it's the larger cast of characters that makes this more interesting, and as you say, Rice & his crew aren't having it all their own way by any means.

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