Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review: The Way to Glory

The Way to Glory, is David Drake's 4th novel in his Lt. Leary/Adele Mundy series.

This story picks up shortly after The Far Side of the Stars. Daniel Leary, Adele Mundy and the crew of the RCN (Royal Cinnabar Navy) corvette Princess Cecil are honored as heroes. However, Cinnabar's captial Xenos is wracked with violence. Class-warfare riots erupt on the news that Commander Slidell of the RCN Bainbridge, executed a junior officer from a populist family along with two spacers. While on a more subtle level, conspiracies against the current government--ruled by Daniel's estranged father--begin to bud.

In order to appease the masses, the Admiralty assigns Daniel as Commander Slidell's First Lieutenant on the cutter-tender RCN Hermes. Fortunately for Daniel, Adele and the former crew of the Princess Cecil join him in his new assignment. According to the author's note, the story is derived from the US and Royal Navy's operations in and around Haiti during the 19th Century.

Daniel's presence merely reinforces Commander Slidell's paranoia. During their tour of duty Daniel and Adele are forced to deal with: An Alliance spy, rival warlords on a failed-state planet, interned Cinnabar citizens and an Alliance plot to establish a naval base on the same failed-state planet. Of course their exploits intensifies not only Commander Slidell's jealousy, but that of the sector's commanding admiral.

There are 24 customer reviews listed on; of which there are 12 x 5-star ratings, 7 x 4-star ratings, 4 x 3-star ratings and one reviewer gave the book a 2-star rating. Of the less-than 5-star ratings, the most common complaint is that the main characters are wooden or flat, while the plot is considered routine or even outright boring.

Meanwhile the 2-star reviewer seems to take offense that Cinnabar is an aristocratic plutocracy and the main characters were born from priviledged families. He couldn't get over the fact that Daniel doesn't know how to drive an aircar--but can pilot a starship. Nor does he feel it's possible for a space-faring society to have citizens who barely know how to read & write, or even illiterate.

I myself am a big fan of this series and give it a 5-star rating. I like how the author transports a 19th Century-style English society into space. Although Cinnabar isn't quite a constitutional monarchy like David Weber's Manticore in the Honor Harrington series. David Drake's Lt. Leary series is a tribute to Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin stories.

Mr Drake gives us a glimpse of an imperfect society struggling to maintain its way of life in the pitiless vaccuum of space. While characters like Daniel and Adele are imbued with a sense of duty and "noblese oblige" to those not born in their station of priviledge.

Daniel's inability to drive an aircar is great source of comic relief. Especially since he has to rely on crewmembers who barely know how to drive. So these vehicles end up coming to rest, more in the form of a "controlled crash" than an actual "landing."

Spacefaring illiterates? That's not too hard to imagine. Even in the most "wired" cities of the most advanced nations of the 21st Century, there are many who probably can't read this blog...

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