Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Apocalypse Troll and other stories

I really like David Weber's military science fiction. A few thousand fans of this sub-genre seem to like it as well; his books, even the ones which are ridiculously swollen with unnecessary and/or undesirable content, sell well. He has also partnered with other authors, including Eric Flint and Steve White, which helps lengthen his list of published novels.

My introduction to his work was a rough go, however. The science fiction book club was touting his In Enemy Hands, which is fairly far into the Honor Harrington series, but I began with that one, not realizing that I had to catch up. There were several times I nearly abandoned it; but about three quarters of the way in, I realized this was indeed a fascinating tale; albeit one which could have been told without quite so much detail. Intrigued, I read a couple of his stand-alone novels, The Path of the Fury and The Apocalypse Troll. While featuring hardware and propulsion concepts, more than characterization, these yarns did not require any backstory, and that helped. After I finished those, I read the Honor Harrington series, from the beginning. The first book is not particularly interesting, being mostly a set up for the series, but the series hits a good stride with books two through six. The seventh book, Echos of Honor also has its moments, but the page counts grow and the synopsis gets shorter with each successive installment. I read most of the series, but I think I have been reading on At All Costs, which may or may not be book twelve, for a couple of years and I have yet to finish it. Instead, I go back and re-read earlier titles.

Some of Baen's earlier Weber titles, including The Apocalypse Troll, are available as eBooks, and I have been re-reading it. Yes, it is perhaps less polished than some of his more recent offerings, but it is also far less bulky than his newer work. No, he still doesn't really write many multi-dimensional characters. Still, I enjoyed it. No one else seems to have the ability to write large scale battle scenes, but Weber does. He also has a firm grasp of the problems and possibilities of technologically driven warfare. Too many writers of space opera write about conflict one-on-one, because that is easier. In Star Wars, there may have been a lot of blasts, but the camera follows Luke and Han, and everything else is a backdrop. That is both cheaper and easier. However, any civilization which moves to the stars will have multiple ships, weapons, and drive mechanisms. Weber writes about those situations, and when Weber is finished with a battle, the casualties are in the thousands. That is what real war is, and it will be in the future.

So, the bottom line is that fans of futuristic writing may or may not like Weber, but most fans of military science fiction do, because he delivers large scale entertainment. Readers should sample the early stories, like The Apocalypse Troll or Path of the Fury, or at the beginning of one of his many series, rather than diving in the middle, however.

Troll is the story of a twenty-fifth century monster unleashed on our current earth, with only one surviving warrior from the future to tackle it. When researching the published reviews, I read that this novel was the first David Weber wrote, but it was published long after he had become established as a writer. So, while still Weber, the complexity is not so vast, and there are not so many references to politics, which is a major flaw in some his Honorverse works. But not everyone agrees that The Apocalypse Troll is a winner, so here is a link to a differing opinion of this novel over at RPG.net.

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