RogerBW's Blog

What Distant Deeps, David Drake 16 January 2023

2010 military SF, eighth of this ongoing series. There's an election coming up, so famous commander Daniel Leary should be got away from the capital of the Republic before he accidentally endorses someone. But backwater postings never stay backwaters for long.

This time he's delivering a new Commissioner to a foreign-held world… that, it turns out, is about to be invaded by an ally. Which would normally be fine, but Republic and Alliance have just made peace, in large part through economic exhaustion, and the invasion will drag both empires back into war again.

And there's a complication in that the former mistress of the Alliance's ruler has been sent back to the same planet and firmly told to stay there; and the Republic's spies would like to know what she knows.

At the same time, the series principals are clearly suffering from major post-traumatic stress, but apparently one of the things forgotten in the Hiatus after interstellar travel ended was working psychiatry or even the awareness that mental health is a thing that people don't have to deal with strictly by themselves.

Leary is back aboard a small ship, after the increase in firepower of the last book; but what I'm noticing more at this point is that because of his record he has the popularity to retain a crew and the political clout to train them in non-standard ways (such as the offensive use of short-range guns normally used only to shoot down missiles), but there's no suggestion that anyone else in the RCN should copy him – and if they do it's only because of his reputation. There's an awful lot of toxic masculinity in this setting, even if not all the people doing it are men.

On a technical level, Leary comes up against a force which may include better astrogators than him – but the trick of course is to attack them where they're weak.

Definitely a series entry, and given the setup quite predictable, but I'm still enjoying the formula done well, and the gradual progression of the long-term characters.

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Previous in series: In the Stormy Red Sky | Series: RCN

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