RogerBW's Blog

Into the Dark, J. A. Sutherland 21 October 2016

2014 military SF, first book of the Alexis Carew series. Barred by her sex from inheriting the family estates, Carew signs aboard a ship of the Royal Navy as a midshipman… in space.

This is the sort of book where the author proudly lays out how pounds, shillings and pence work… but hasn't noticed that "pence" is a plural. It's a clear descendant of Hornblower and Aubrey-Maturin (via David Drake's RCN series, which I really ought to re-read): while it's nominally science fiction, the science is blatantly set up to create a recognisable Napoleonic-era navy (complete not only with masts and rigging but with prize money, chainshot, flogging, and bumboats).

See, there's darkspace, always in italics so you know how nifty it is. You can pop into or out of it at Lagrange points (any Lagrange points), and travel there is non-linear but faster than in normal space… but electronics don't work unless they're shielded by a terribly expensive mineral (you know it's important, it's purple with white swirls). If you thought the Honor Harrington series was blatantly set up to allow ships to exchange broadsides in space, you'll have to hold your nose a bit here, because while the publishing category is science fiction, there's really no science involved: nobody in-universe really understands this stuff, and it's clear that the answer to any question of physics is "whatever makes it most Napoleonic".

Meanwhile there's Alexis herself, who takes to the Navy like the proverbial duck, in spite of being the Only Girl In The Fringe Fleet; everybody is nice and accepting and generous (with one or two exceptions quickly won over), her problems are minor and easily overcome, and she quickly starts to distinguish herself, in manners strikingly reminiscent of some of the incidents from Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. But she's Terribly Tortured and always feels she hasn't done well enough, so that's all right then.

Nobody here is much of a real person; Alexis mostly just gets things right, while everyone else is a stereotype (Kindly Captain, Nasty Fellow Middie, Repentant Bad Guy, Corrupt Purser). It's competently enough written, but reading this book feels like eating a whole box of doughnuts, and has about as much lasting value.

Followed by Mutineer, which is apparently set aboard HMS Hermione. Hmm.

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

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:32am on 21 October 2016

    Ah, good. Another book I need not read....

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:42am on 21 October 2016

    Was there a shortage?

    This doesn't get the "In Brief, Avoid" tag; I didn't despise it. It didn't engender that much feeling in me.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:26pm on 21 October 2016

    Any lagrange point? So with enough mass and/or distance you can make your own entries into darkspace.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 02:46pm on 21 October 2016

    That did occur to me. One assumes there's some sort of mass ratio limit to the process, but the way the characters talk about it it's all just a fact of nature.

  5. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 07:22pm on 21 October 2016

    Without meaning to sound snippy, but that review would rank as "Do Not Go Near This" and I wonder whether you need to metaphorically switch the broad minded setting off and reboot yourself. ;-)

    Works for computers...

  6. Posted by RogerBW at 07:51pm on 21 October 2016

    Yes, but you know me - my baseline calibration is "I hate you. I hate everybody. Now open that damn door and let me OUT."

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 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 2022 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