RogerBW's Blog

The Far Side of the Stars, David Drake 27 February 2021

2003 military SF, third of this ongoing series. Peace has broken out between Republic and Alliance, which means that Leary's command, the captured corvette Princess Cecile, is being sold out of service. But she's bought by a foreigner who needs a ship and a crew for his expedition to backwater space.

This is the first of these that's felt to me like a series entry. It's not that it's bad, it's that we don't get much in the way of progress or development; some people end up in different positions, some nameless ones end up dead, but Adele still does computer wizardry (and just like wizardry in genre fantasy it's as powerful as the plot needs it to be at that moment – otherwise why can't she do to the grounded ships on the base what she did to the earlier single ship?), Daniel still navigates and ship-handles like a champion and indulges himself with bits of local fluff while being sent to a minor place that turns out to be vitally important, and at the climax there's a battle against overwhelming odds.

Which if that's what you're in the mood for, and I was, is fine. I mean, there are thirteen books in this series right now, and I don't suppose it's any harder to find book one than to find book three. (In fact the first six books were included on the Baen free CDs, back when Baen still had the sense to realise that giving away the early books increased sales of the later ones more than they made off the long tail if they charged for the early ones.) So the only way I'd be recommending you start with this book would be if it were not only amazing as part of the series but also amazing considered on its own; and it's good as part of the series, probably good on its own, but not amazing. To get the full emotional effect, to care about the characters, it helps if you already care about them; there's some recapping of earlier events but it can't have the force of having read them at full length.

There are plenty of minor threads that get dropped and not picked up again, which might be unsatisfying except for the underlying feeling that this is a large universe and we simply can't observe everyone's stories. That's a neat trick on Drake's part and I wish I could work out how he manages it.

And there are good small details, like the role of religion which has largely abandoned supernaturalism but can still offer some degree of emotional comfort through familiarity and ritual. (And the religions here aren't just standard ones transplanted; this is a setting that's gone through major cultural changes and its religions have not been immune to that.)

Meanwhile there's still nothing like a "normal" female character: apart from the bits of fluff, there's a chronic introvert, a psychopath, and several parodies of self-indulgent noblewomen. Eh, I should probably be glad that (unlike a lot of mil-sf) it has female characters at all.

So if you liked books one and two, this is a decent continuation. If you didn't like them, don't bother with this one. If you haven't read them, read them and repeat from start of paragraph.

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Previous in series: Lt. Leary, Commanding | Series: RCN | Next in series: The Way to Glory

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