RogerBW's Blog

The Way to Glory, David Drake 08 January 2022

2005 military SF, fourth of this ongoing series. With riots breaking out after an officer who lethally suppressed a mutiny is found not guilty at his court-martial, Daniel Leary ends up serving under him. This is unlikely to end well.

The outline follows the standard pattern for the series: Leary's sent off on a hard mission with superiors who dislike him, and ends up fighting against an unsuspected Alliance operation at ridiculous odds, but prevails through his own skill and the trust and skill of his crew and other loyalists. Which is fine; it's not a bad pattern. Where it would become dull would be if the details that distinguish this book from what's gone before became repetitious, and that's not the case. Each world, from would-be glittering civilisation to backwater rubbish, feels fresh and new, and if some of the secondary characters fall easily into stereotype, they still have distinctive characteristics, and every death feels like a loss.

Mundy can still break into any computer anywhere, but this time her skills are a bit less blatantly tied to whatever the plot needs at that moment; they feel like another tool in the arsenal of the good guys rather than the author's way of getting out of a tricky situation. The viewpoint seems more with her than with Leary, which works for the reader (she doesn't have the immediate familiarity with all things spacey that he does, so has to think them out or have them explained) as well as providing an interesting flavour to events.

There's some serious introspection here, too: Leary develops a plan that's probably suicidal, but which he has a better chance of pulling off than anyone else. Then his captain decides to take it over, and will almost certainly die doing it. Obviously Leary can't argue: but he knew this was a possibility, so did he do a sufficiently good job of making things clear that the captain was making a genuinely informed decision?

But none of this would work without a basic facility in storytelling and writing, and that's here too. Drake knows what he's doing, and does it.

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Previous in series: The Far Side of the Stars | Series: RCN | Next in series: Some Golden Harbor

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