Tuesday, May 6, 2008

When The Tide Rises-- David Drake-- Review

When The Tide Rises by David Drake is military space opera. The book is part of a larger series, The Republic of Cinnabar Navy series. The main character, Lieutenant Leary is patriotic, astute, politically savvy, and willing to take risks. He is a gentleman adventurer much in the style of the historical Lord Cochrane who the character is based on. The book is an ode to the sailing ships of old. The space ships even use sails and rigging to travel through the matrix (hyperspace).

The setting is rather interesting. It is in a distant future. The Republic of Cinnabar, an imperial elitist republic, and the Alliance, a totalitarian government are at war. Both control many different worlds. The Cinnabar characters are jingoistic, patriotic, and class conscious. The naval men and women act like sailors, they fight, brawl, drink, and carry on with the native populations. The main character, Lieutenant Leary has a loyal servant, Hogg, and his freind, the spy, Adele Mundy, has a servant Tovera.

This is one of the few science fiction novels that describes the freindship between a male and female lead character well. Adele Mundy, spy for Cinnabar is a close freind of Lieutenant Leary, commander of the corvette Princess Cecile.

In this novel, Lieutenant Leary is sent to Bagaria to help the rebel government remain free from being taken over by the Alliance. The Bagarians are plagued by inept and corrupt leaders. By todays standard, they would be called a "banana republic."

Lieutenant Leary promptly starts a series of commerce raids, capturing prizes for the Republic of Cinnabar. He also attacks an Alliance base. One of the nice things about this book, is that it is not in the slightest bit politically correct. A spacer is a spacer, and Leary recruits naval troops from his captured ships, as well as calls some of the natives "wogs."

A lot of the action is based on deceiving the enemy. Leary uses the tactics of surprise, espionage, subterfuge, and first strike. On a few occassions, he poses as the enemy using captured ships.

The fights are fast and furious, but often unreal. This is of course a story. However, I find not enough people die or are wounded in the story. Leary loses a few of his allied ships, and one of his crew members Woetjans is injured. This is explained away by Adele Mundy's ability to penetrate the enemies communication networks and collect critical intelligence to turn the tide. She after all was a librarian and is a communications specialist and spy.

There is a political element to the story. Leary's father is a senator in the Cinnabar republic. Also, Admiral Vocaine views Leary as a potential enemy. Because of this, Leary is sent into the hot situations where he will have to be savvy or end up rotting in prison or dead.

Adele Mundy and Daniel Leary also help refine the environment of the science fiction worlds they visit. Daniel Leary is interested in the "natural history" of alien worlds. He observes the odd plants and animals. For example at one point in the novel he is watching a small tentacled flying creature the size of his thumb. Adele Mundy is interested in archaeology, literature, and librarianship. At the end of the book, she visits the megaliths of Diamondia.

I am looking forward to reading more of this excellent series. At the end of the book, Lieutenant Leary is to become Captain Leary. David Drake, the author is an interesting writer. He is best known for his series, Hammer's Slammers about a mercenary tank company in the far future. David Drake also served as an interrogation officer during Vietnam. He is described as often making very exacting descriptions of combat. The books in this series are With The Lightnings, Lieutent Leary Commanding, The Far Side of the Stars, The Way to Glory, Some Golden Harbor, and When The Tide Rises. With the Lightings is available for free from the Baen free library if you want to see what the series is about. http://www.baen.com/library/defaultTitles.htm

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