Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Her Name - First Contact - Michael R. Hicks

    2009; 373 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Book One of the “Last War” Trilogy.  Genre : Military Sci-Fi.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Great news!  The Terran Naval Ship Aurora has made the first contact with a sentient race in another star system.  And look!  They’re sending out four ships to meet and greet us.

    Hmm.  Those four ships are really big, really fast, and really military-looking.  But the Aurora isn’t making any threatening or warlike gestures.  So those beings that just launched from one of their ships – big, insect-like critters with long, curving swords – must be some sort of Honor Guard.

    Cuz if they’re not, the crew of the Aurora is in deep doo-doo.

What’s To Like...
    In Her Name- First Contact is a nice piece of Military Science Fiction.  The emphasis is on battle tactics, weaponry, and the spilling of blood.  There are a slew of characters to follow (on both sides) as they hack and slash their way to glory or to death.

    The book is set in the somewhat-near future, where humans have developed space travel and decided that we can’t all just get along on Earth.  So the French have moved to another planet, as have the (combined) Arab and Chinese populations.

    The aliens are light-years ahead of us in technology, and have a high degree of unfriendliness.  But they have a high sense of honor, so they “dumb down” their weapons to give us poor humans at least some small chance of winning individual battles.  Everything they do is for their Empress’ honor (“In Her Name”), and dying in combat for Her Glory is considered a noble deed.  The “Bloodsong” phenomenon is a neat device, and naming one of the characters “Hamilton Barca” has a special appeal to me.

    There is some cussing, and a lot of blood and gore; but that just enhances the realism of the story.  There are a slew of strong female characters to follow, which is nice to see.  This is a standalone novel, with an ending that both closes this chapter in the saga and sets up the next book in the series.  I gather IHN-FC is a prequel to one of Michael R. Hicks’ major trilogies, but was in fact written afterward, in kind of a Star Wars order of events.  I found the Epilogue to be particularly poignant.

    “We would like to offer our unconditional support in the defense of your world, including direct military assistance should you so desire.  The president made it very clear to me that there were absolutely no strings attached, no quid pro quo.”
    Bin Sultan’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.  There were always strings, always conditions, he thought, even though they were often invisible.  (loc. 2367)

    She turned to face the warrior who apparently wanted her head for a prize.  It was a small enough price to pay for the safety of the others, Coyle thought.
    As the big warrior looked on, Coyle’s opponent approached and handed Coyle a sword.  Coyle looked at it, having to admire the beauty of the craftsmanship and thinking that the Kreelans could get rich by making jewelry if they could only get over their urge to kill everyone in sight.  (loc. 6104)

Kindle Details...
    In Her Name – First Contact is always a free download at Amazon.  Michael R. Hicks also offers three other series-starters for free.  Most of the rest of the dozen-or-so books in his series are in the $2.99-$3.99 range, with a couple priced a few dollars more.  I am of the opinion that this is a most effective marketing strategy.

”You know, sir, you might be considered lucky if you didn’t seem to attract so much trouble.”  (loc. 6734)
    IHN-FC is action-packed, but the constant slash-&-bash can get repetitive after a while.  The pacing is actually slow – in essence the plotline here consists of a battle, battle preparation, and another battle.  But to some extent, such is the nature of Military Sci-Fi.

    There is some nationalistic stereotyping.  The Arabs and Chinese get predictably hosed; the French get mauled (although they at least fight heroically); and as usual, the Americans save the day.  I’m still waiting for a novel where the Chinese ride to the rescue of ‘Murica .

    The world-building was believable, and the attention to detail when it came to things like weaponry, ships’ defenses, and warfare (there are no deafening explosions in space); was convincing.  OTOH, there weren’t many plot twists, and after finishing this book, I can pretty much predict how this galactic clash will resolve itself.  Still, the fun is in getting from the first battle to the last one.

    8 Stars.  It’s hard to rate a book that’s done well, but in a genre that I’m not all that fond of.  Add 1 Star if you’re a fan of Tom Clancy stories (but wish he would have set some of them in Sci-Fi worlds), and think George R.R. Martin’s habit of developing characters only to kill them off is way kewl.  You’ll likely enjoy In Her Name – First Contact.

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