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Bryan Thomas Schmidt

My thoughts on books, stories, authors, and publishing

Currently reading

The Clockwork Dagger
Beth Cato
Progress: 120/360 pages
The Road to Science Fiction 3: From Heinlein to Here
James Gunn
The Road to Science Fiction 4: From Here to Forever
James Gunn
The Road to Science Fiction 1
James Gunn
A Broken Christmas
Claire Ashgrove
The Ultra Thin Man
Patrick Swenson
Progress: 174/334 pages
The Broken Eye
Brent Weeks
The Dark Between the Stars
Kevin J. Anderson
Oath of Fealty
Elizabeth Moon
The Road to Science Fiction 2: From Wells to Heinlein
James Gunn

Fire with Fire

Fire with Fire - Charles E. Gannon Space opera is my favorite subgenre of science fiction without a doubt, and in large part, the subgenre that drew me to speculative fiction more than any other. That being said, I also have particular tastes in space opera, which include larger-than-life heroes, lots of action, fast pace, etc. If you go into this book looking for that, it will be a tough read. The first half of this book moves at a snail's pace, but it does start picking up quite a bit half way through and for the final third, I simply struggled to put it down when I needed to sleep or work. Charles Gannon is not telling the type of space opera story that gets me jonesing, at least not at first. That doesn't make him wrong. But it does mean those expecting that must temper their expectations accordingly. There's a long setup here, and, in fact, if I had written it, I'd have found a way to tell it differently and intersperse some of that as flashbacks into later, more action-oriented and fast-paced moments, because it was a challenge to get through for readers like me. But then Charles Gannon is for more intellectual and fascinated by intellectual discussion than I am, and his book reflects that. There's a lot of talking here, about history, diplomacy, government and more. This accomplishes worldbuilding and character setup which do start to pay off later, but it also makes the book move slowly and unfold at a pace which is not what I typical desire in my favorite space operas.

The story is one of a man who has been in cryofreeze after leading the first encounter between Earth and aliens and then awakened and manipulated by a government agency to lead another first encounter, this with multiple species inviting humans to join a galactic alliance of sorts, an accord. Caine Riordan and his companions, including bodyguards, government agents, diplomats, scientists, and military men travel together to discover what this accord is all about and who they being are which are involved and find themselves, in the process, uncovering a far larger, more dangerous plot that leaves all of them on the brink of war.

The politics is complicated as are the government manuevering going on. There are quite a few characters to follow, particularly in the delegation. But the aliens are fascinating and diverse and well considered. There seems to be some solid science employed here (I am not the best judge) behind it all as well. And the worldbuilding is well thought out. All of that makes for a book I believe will pay off well for both those who enjoy complicated, multi-book space operas as well as more complicated first encounter culture clash stories. But it does require and investment. If you're up for the investment, I believe you'll find it well worth your time.