Monday, July 26, 2010

Live Free or Die by John Ringo

Live Free or Die (Troy Rising)
The first novel in Ringo's Troy Rising series is just chock full of big ideas. In the near future, an alien race installs a gate to other worlds at the outskirts of the solar system, and humans are afforded the opportunity to explore the galaxy without the downside of relativistic effects. On the other hand, our solar system is now open to all comers, and it doesn't take long before the bad guys show up.

The Horvath, for no readily explained reason, are militaristic and expansionist, and they quickly seize control of Earth by dropping large rocks on several major cities, and threatening to do the same to others if humans don't give them want they want - heavy metals. It seems the gold standard still reigns in outer space, in a manner of speaking.

There is, however, a race of friendly-er aliens called the Glatun, who have a society based in a large part on trade. They show up to trade with Earth for anything that's left over after the Horvath take their tribute. Most of what we have to trade is quite primitive by their standards, so we don't have a lot of leverage in negotiations.

But Tyler Vernon, a jack of all trades, discovers fortuitously that maple syrup is an extremely intoxicating, nearly addictive substance for the Glatun, and begins a covert trade with them. After he trades a pickup truck load of 55 gallon drums to them for a large quantity of extremely advanced computer circuitry, which he then sells to technology firms around the world, he becomes wealthy enough to corner the market in maple syrup, triggering a standoff with the Horvath, who decide that it should all belong to them, as Earth's rightful masters. The Glatun decide to intervene, to keep the maple syrup flowing, and the Horvath's perceived power over Earth diminishes somewhat.

Vernon has a plan to rid Earth of its alien overlords, and he moves rapidly to secure an alliance with major Glatun trading concerns, and to buy more alien technology to build the military strength the Earth needs to confront the Horvath, and later their allies the Rangora. Along the way, Ringo introduces some novel approaches to asteroid mining, battlestation construction, terawatt lasers, and a host of other sci fi goodies.

The pace of the book is a little odd. Ringo spends a lot of time following some events in vivid detail, then jumps ahead weeks, months, or years at times to the next scene. Victories over the Horvath forces, in some cases, seem to come way too easily, but perhaps mankind is just assumed to be so warlike by nature that defeat is inconceivable.

Overall, it's entertaining, and a fun read. Looking forward to the next installment.

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