Synopsis: A “space opera.” War among the stars, as humans are attacked by The Darkness (not the band).
Book Review: First, a minor quibble. This book isn’t SF, it’s Fantasy In Space. You will have to make a conscious effort to forget any physics you know to preserve the suspension of disbelief. It’s interesting that sometimes these things work and sometimes they don’t. I’m a fan of Star Wars and Warhammer 40K, and both of those are known to laugh at the idea of being constrained by basic common-physics-sense. But they have a flair, a certain bombast, that makes you eager to play along. This novel lacks that, and the result is groan-inducing.
But to get to the heart of the matter… Guys, I tried with this book. I really did. I felt the Puppies deserved a fair shake and I did absolutely everything I could to give them my fairest. After all, they have to their credit Warbound which was good in parts and wasn’t bad overall, and Parliament of Beasts and Birds which I quite liked. I can’t just denounce something without actually reading it. But after slogging through 220 pages of this abomination I could not read a single page further, and I was only about 1/3rd of the way through.
This is not a story. This is an outline of a story with a few physical descriptions fleshed out. You know those “Here’s a refresher of what happened last season” 5-minute clips that come out when a new season of a TV series begins nowadays? Imagine nothing but an entire book of that. Events are summarized, but no details are filled in. The result is a story with as much emotion as reading a bad history textbook. Allow me to demonstrate:
“Elisa was so furious and indignant she could barely think straight” is used to display anger. Can you feel the anger radiating off the page? Me neither. But it’s nothing compared to this next line, delivered after a mother witnesses her son die:
“That meant her son was dead! Anger warred with her grief.”
Let me be very clear – I’m not taking two sentences out of context of a greater tapestry. That is literally the entire effort that Anderson put into showing us the grief of a mother watching her child die before her. The paragraph before this was things blowing up, the paragraph after is exposition telling us things we already know (how her son got here), and the paragraph after that is descriptions of how damaged her ship is. The entire book is like this! The author does not give a single fuck about his writing, so why should I? Other examples:
“The survey ships orbited the small moon, and the readings were unusual enough that Keah decided they warranted a hands-on surface investigation. Adar Zan’nh agreed.”
“Sparks showered from control panels throughout the command nucleus, and the life-support systems shut down.”
Dry narrative that fails to evoke emotion, and the most-mocked cliché in Star Trek, at the same time!
“Sendra gave Garrison a gaze full of meanings, regrets, questions, and not-so-subtle flirtation.”
HOLY SHIT GUYS!! The only time I’ve read a line like this before is in fanfics that are parodies of bad fanfics!
But the complete lack of emotion and terrible writing aren’t the worst of it either. By far the worst part of all this is that there is not a single person in this book. There are a bunch of plot-advancing devices that have names. But they are empty husks, whose only purpose is to get us from Event A to Event B to Event C, and give us no reason to care about any event or any person. This book is empty. Not Recommended.
Also, in the glossary at the back there is an entry for “Black Robots: intelligent and evil beetlelike robots…” Yes, it says ‘evil’ in their description. Seriously, was this book written by-and-for eight-year-olds? I was surprised no one cast Magic Missile at The Darkness.
Book Club Review: Hahahahaahha! No. Not Recommended.
Puppy Note: Seriously guys, what the hell? Are you just trolling us? This is one of the worst books I’ve read in years. Apparently simply putting words on paper is enough to get a Sad Puppy Hugo nod. No wonder Brad had to go full post-modern, it’s the only refuge left to him now that he hitched his wagon to this turd.
On the plus side, it really puts into perspective the other books that were nominated. Skin Game and Three-Body Problem and Goblin Emperor all had their faults, and I can’t say any of them were really good. But now that I’ve been reminded what a BAD book looks like, I feel a lot better about those.