Monday, August 4, 2014

War to the Knife by Peter Grant

 As expected, Peter Grant has given us a fast-paced, action-filled, page-turner of military SF to enjoy in this first of a new series. The citizens of the planet Laredo have been invaded by the thugs from Bactria, and their planet has been occupied and oppressed for quite a while as the story begins. The resistance continues fighting against the occupying forces, despite the Bactrian Security Service's policy of immediately shooting, or torturing first, then shooting, any captured freedom fighters. The horrendous abuses perpetrated on the population by the Bactrians have all been documented by the resistance, and they have finally decided to send one of their best and brightest young officers, Lt. Dave Carson, off planet to alert the galaxy and appeal to the United Planets for relief.

To provide a diversion, the resistance stages its largest attack ever to coincide with the arrival of the Bactrian Satrap and his Crown Prince on the planet, to review the troops and bolster the reign of the current military governor. They help themselves to Bactrian shuttles, weaponry and supplies and stage a major attack on the capitol city during the celebration, causing massive casualties, while at the same time Dave and his wife, Tamsin, and a small cadre steal a spaceship capable of getting into orbit, attack the space station above Laredo, use its captured weapons to destroy the only armed vessels in the system, destroy the station itself with a nuke, then flee with a merchant freighter to the planet Neu Helvetica. That's the plot in a nutshell.

The only gripe I have with the tale, aside from its brevity (only 269 pages), is that Grant has a tendency, it seems to me, to make things work out a little too conveniently for his heroes. I've seen it with the Maxwell Saga, and it's rearing its head here, too. Yes, many of the good guys die, and yes, the fighting is fierce and the enemy evil, but the entire multi-pronged attack on the city went far more smoothly than far simpler operations proceed in real life, and I never felt the tension in my gut, you know?

One of the things I'm curious to find out about in subsequent installments of this story is whether the Satrap's son will actually act upon the newfound revelations about how it may be better to treat one's subjects far more leniently than has been his family's habits, so as to avoid the sort of hatred and destruction that the Laredans dealt out. Carson and his surviving friends have also begun a crusade of sorts to unite many of the smaller, weaker planets and form a joint space navy task force to deal with aggressive polities like the Bactrians, and it will be interesting to see where Grant goes with that.

As always, enjoyable, and worth the price of admission.

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