Thursday, May 10, 2007

Review: In Fury Born

Well now, didn't that book just take forever.

It was over a week ago that I made it known that I had purchased a David Weber book entitled In Fury Born, and despite my impressive reading speed it has taken me this long to get it done. I'm exhausted, my eyes are burning, and I feel asleep on the accursed thing three times. At over 800+ pages in the hardcover, it's not really that surprising. The paperback version being advertised at Books-A-Million's website boasts a page count of 850. Anyways, here's the book description provided by Amazon.com

Imperial Intelligence couldn't find them, the Imperial Fleet couldn't catch them, and local defenses couldn't stop them. It seemed the planet-wrecking pirates were invincible. But they made a big mistake when they raided ex-commando leader Alicia DeVries' quiet home work, tortured and murdered her family, and then left her for dead. Alicia decided to turn "pirate" herself, and stole a cutting-edge AI ship from the Empire to start her vendetta. Her fellow veterans think she's gone crazy, the Imperial Fleet has shoot-on-sight orders. And of course the pirates want her dead, too. But Alicia DeVries has two allies nobody knows about, allies as implacable as she is: a self-aware computer, and a creature from the mists of Old Earth's most ancient legends. And this trio of furies won't rest until vengeance is served.

In Fury Born is a greatly expanded new version of David Weber's popular novel Path of the Fury, which has gone through six large printings in its original mass market edition. David Weber has added considerable new material, revealing the earlier life of Alicia DeVries before she embarked on her mission of vengeance, and illuminating the universe of the original story. The result is a novel with almost twice the wordage of the original, and a must-buy for all David Weber fans.

And that's a fairly good representation of the book, though I think the description on the dust jacket of the hardcover is a better blurb.

Anyways, for characters we have Alicia DeVries, ex-Imperial Marine, a member of the elite Imperial Cadre, and she even was given numerous awards. She's smart and aggressive, the best of the best, as all Cadre are. I liked the character, she was charming, sly and held an honor about her that made her stand up for her beliefs.

Then there's a whole host of secondary characters. Most of them from her time as a Marine are not that well defined, but Tannis Cateau, Alicia's "wing" in the Cadre, and Sir Arthur Keita a Brigadier in the Cadre are very well defined, of course that might be because they get the most screen time outside of Alicia herself.

The other primary characters, are Tisiphone and Megaira, a Fury from Greek legend and the self-aware computer AI discussed in the book description. While I had no trouble with Megaira as a concept from a military Sci-Fi novel, I was less excited about Tisiphone when I began reading her story-arc. Yet surprisingly (to me at least), Mr. Weber made it work.

Beyond those, the novel is populated with a wide range of tertiary and throw-away characters. Folks who are introduced to die, that sort of thing.

As for the plot, well this is a rework of an earlier novel. I can only assume that Path of the Fury was a bit more coherent in its plot, as the first half of the novel was less focused. And according to what I've read, it's that first half that was added. Truth be told, there's not really an overreaching plot for the first half, it almost appears as if Mr. Weber took a few short stories and shoved them onto the front of the book. Alicia's time as an Imperial Marine, and then her time as an Imperial Cadre. Separately they make good short stories, but taken as the first half of the novel, they tend to drag the book down a bit. Once it got past that, and started into the main action of Alicia's vendetta, well the plot flowed really well.

Settings were so-so. Nothing amazing, nothing even really described in explicit detail. Yet at the same time, it lends an air of specificness when Weber takes time out to describe a part of the landscape. And again, a lot of this is split among the first half and second half. In the Vendetta portion of the book, we get close looks at the planets, there's one that has a lot of snow, and we feel that cold. Then there's an arid planet, and we feel the heat alongside Alicia. In the Marine and Cadre parts, we're dealing with battles almost exclusively, and the only time descriptions of the settings come into play is when they have a factor on how the battle is going.

A theme for the novel is hard to come up with. There's not a whole lot of intellectual thought going on, especially after taking a week or so to read the thing. I have vague concepts of justice and training and the way that vengeance and justice tie into one another. Ultimately though, I don't think there's so much a theme as it's just pure space opera. A novel designed for you to have a good time reading it rather than having it serve as a way for you to get something out of it.

Does that play havoc with my sense that all fiction should force us to look inward and take something from the story? Of course. Am I insane enough to think that sometimes a novel is just there to be a good read? No. At least not yet. If I was a tad more post-modernist, I could probably push some oddball theme onto the whole thing, but for now, I'm just sticking with it's a space opera without a theme.

The mechanics of the book were done well. I can't remember any typos or grammar errors, and the seventeen pages which listed all the characters made checking the spelling for Megaira might easy. Of course, part of me wishes that it had been at the front of the book, or at least a prominent note somewhere at the front about it, as I could have used it while reading. Yes, I'm admitting that I would forget what characters names were while reading the thing, heck it's 17 pages of characters, you'd forget some too.

Overall, I'm not disappointed in the book, but neither am I extraordinarily excited about it. Will I ever read another Weber novel again? Probably. Do I plan on keeping this one so I can re-read it in the future? I've not decided yet truthfully. A rather large part of me is leaning towards trading it in at the used bookstore, but I can admit to being one of those folks who likes to keep books on hand, just on the off chance that I MIGHT want to read them again in the future.

Oh well, this gets a solid 2 out of 4, which is sad, because I have the distinct feeling I would have awarded Path of the Fury a higher rating.







2 comments:

RJ said...

Man, when taking a week to read a book that big is 'slow', then I know you're more machine than man! :)

Stephen Wrighton said...

Heh. No, I've not gotten any cybernetic implants to up my reading abilities. Just a few self-taught tricks to help me read faster while retaining more of what I read.

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