Bard Bloom (bard_bloom) wrote,
Bard Bloom

Free Review: The Course of Empire

Continuing in my plan to review every free e-book I finish, I picked up The Course of Empire by Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth for free somewhere or other, and expected to hate it. I generally don't like military SF. I snagged it in a pile of a couple dozen free e-books, and planned to toss three quarters of them.

And, rather to my surprise, I really liked it. The heart of the book was about a culture clash between the alien Jao who had conquered Earth twenty years before, and the humans (mostly American) who directly served them. The Jao had good reasons for conquering Earth: the even-more-alien Ekhat were killing off every intelligent species in the galaxy, and the Jao essentially drafted humanity into the anti-Ekhat war effort.

Anyhow, the world-building and culture-building can be the main character in a story like this, and in Course of Empire it was. The actual characters were pretty one-dimensional, but there were enough of them and they were arranged well enough so that their meagre personalities and stories outlined the two conflicting cultures. The Jao were nicely alien-but-understandable, with some interesting personality quirks for a conquering imperialist race.

A number of things bothered me about the book as I was reading, but turned out sensible in the end. Oppuk, the Jao governor of Earth, acted like a nearly-irrational sadistic villain for most of the book, which seemed surprisingly insane and stereotypical for this story. It turns out that there was a good reason for him acting that way. The obbligato mumble that, although Jao are human-like around the genital region, no human ever saw Jao take sexual interest in either Jao or human; there's an interesting reason for that, and it's quite relevant to the plotline. That sort of thing.

And yes, there was a lot of gloating about how good human military apparatus is (albeit inferior to dropping asteroids on Chicago and Mt. Everest), and a space combat scene carefully crafted to show them off.

Anyways, five baus (specially carved Jao batons) out of five: it's in the top 20% of SF books I've read lately.

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