RogerBW's Blog

Angles of Attack, Marko Kloos 15 November 2015

2015 SF, sequel to Lines of Departure. The alien Lankies have moved into the solar system, and a random assortment of ship crews from the two previously-warring powers must decide what to do next.

The book begins where Lines of Departure left off; it's easy enough for the new reader to get up to speed on the basic space-navy stuff, but our hero's background and motivations are largely un-mentioned. He wants to stay alive and get back to his girlfriend in time for their wedding date; that's about it, and he's even more of a cipher than he was in the earlier books.

On the other hand the invincible alien menace of the Lankies seems strangely inconsistent. In the ground action that opens the book, they're without their usual orbital support and, for unknown but possibly related reasons, are very easy to kill; towards the end, they're still without orbital support but are just as tough as usual, and nobody wonders why. Nobody thinks of repeating the trick of ramming their ships with a robot freighter that capped the previous book, though there are some heroic sacrifices because, well, you need heroic sacrifices, right?

The experienced mil-sf reader will note that, although Kloos talks a good fight, his heart still isn't in the crunchy bits. He doesn't seem to realise that a kinetic strike from orbit will be hypersonic:

The kinetic warheads from the Avenger announce their arrival with an unearthly ripping sound overhead. Then the first warhead strikes the ground three kilometers away, at the entrance of the ravine. There's a blinding flash in the distance, and a few seconds later, an earth-shattering bang shakes the ground so violently that I have to regain my footing

and has continuing problems distinguishing acceleration from velocity:

A ship keeps the forward momentum it had when it entered the bubble, and Colonel Campbell hit the node at four gravities of acceleration with the fusion engines going at flank speed. When we pop out of the bubble on the solar system side in a few minutes, we'll be shooting out of the node like a ship-to-ship missile.

But more seriously, with a military force that may as far as it knows be all that's left of humanity, there are two people left who can do the "combat controller" job, and they're both sent into the same action – aboard the same fragile dropship? Um. I really don't think so.

There are lots of unanswered questions which nobody seems to be bothered enough to look into; yeah, our hero is a grunt rather than a researcher, but he's weirdly incurious about things that might kill him if they don't get solved.

I'm talking about the tech because there isn't really a lot of characterisation here. There's still cynicism about the military power structure, and still months of boredom and moments of terror, but really we barely get a feel for the people as people at all. This series has got down to the guilty-fun level of a BattleTech novel or Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series: sure, I can enjoy them by suppressing my critical faculties, but I don't like having to do that, and for the most part they just aren't terribly good. And this book isn't terribly good either, even compared with the previous two volumes; the occasional interesting bits of commentary about things like the state of Earth are pretty much gone, in favour of more boom.

To be followed by Chains of Command, though I probably won't bother.

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