RogerBW's Blog

The Sea Without a Shore, David Drake 14 March 2023

2014 military SF, tenth of this ongoing series. A variety of missions, well outside the scope of anything official, brings Daniel and crew to a planet in rebellion.

All right, to a certain extent this series is an exercise in shaking up the pieces and seeing where they land this time. Adele's boss, in charge of RCN Intelligence, has a failson who's turned up again claiming to be a reformed character, but wanting help to go treasure-hunting on a world with an active insurrection. Meanwhile Daniel's sister is being blackmailed by someone on the other side of that insurrection.

Of course the team will end up giving all the good guys (and even some of the neutral guys) what they want, while making sure the bad guys don't profit from their badness, but a lot of the fun here is seeing just how they do it. The military action has shifted from the space-navy emphasis of earlier books to small-unit tactics, and while this is a thing that space navy (and wet navy) books in general tend to do (if they don't just escalate to bigger and bigger battles) I don't think it strikes a false note here; it's always been a signifiant component in the series, and after all there is now a tenuous peace between Cinnabar and the Alliance. (And once more there's a concern that if the RCN gets involved on one side, the Alliance will have to get involved on the other, the war will restart, and both empires will destroy themselves trying to win it. Although this isn't a repetition of the plots from recent books, several of the same large-scale considerations remain in play.)

For me the most enjoyable element of the book was the way Leary and Mundy were able to set things up for everyone to end up better off than if they'd carried on and won the fighting. Drake often seems to have the attitude that making the right side win quickly is the best that can be managed in this imperfect world, and it's refreshing to see him writing a situation with a bit of lateral thinking leading to a more positive outcome.

There's a little development for some of the secondary characters, which I always appreciate, and of course a lot of business as usual, but this book left me with a rather more positive impression than the last few.

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Previous in series: The Road of Danger | Series: RCN | Next in series: Death's Bright Day

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