RogerBW's Blog

To Clear Away the Shadows, David Drake 28 June 2023

2019 military SF, thirteenth and to date last of this series. As the truce continues to hold, the Far Traveller explores a forgotten section of space.

And there's no mention of Leary or Mundy in this book at all – because by this point in their careers they wouldn't be getting sent on the sort of relatively low-stakes missions that are involved here. Instead we get Rick Grenville, junior officer who'd rather be fighting but there isn't any fighting to do, and Harry Harper, biologist from a good family who's more interested in the biology than in being young Lord Harper.

And while this series has always been a bit Aubrey-Maturin, in having for its lead characters the naval professional and the outsider who needs navy stuff explained to them, here it's much more so, with Harper involved in scientific expeditions (and impressing local nobility with his name so that he can get a look at their forgotten collections) while Grenville is on more ship-related duties. (Both of them have superiors on board.) Harper's story is told in first person, Grenville's in third, but their actual narrative voices don't significantly differ.

The individual incidents, and this is largely a series of incidents, are quite enjoyable; they're more like a series of connected short stories than like a novel, with only minor thematic continuity. There's a recurring theme of learning about the Ancient Spacefarers, who left their artefacts behind even before the human diaspora and the long interval in star travel that followed, but the knowledge gained here is interesting but specialised, rather than the sort of thing that will thoroughly revise the way people look at the universe.

It's still space-navy SF and it still does a reasonably good job of it, but without Leary and Mundy it sinks from the consistently interesting to the generically competent.

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