Authors: Chris Kennedy and Thomas A.May

Publisher: Theogony Books

ISBN: 978-1948485166 and ASIN B07BRTDBCJ

From E. E. Smith’s Lensman series to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, space opera often means space warfare. Movies like the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises might give the impression that fantasy is space opera, but, in genre fiction, the latter has more hard sci-fi elements, and this book is a good example of that. First a wee bit of background.

The Alliance of Liberated Systems (ALS) is at war with the Terran Union (TU). ALS is comprised of worlds that have seceded from the TU; the latter wants them back. I suspect that any similarities to past earthly colonial struggles—in particular, the British Empire v. American colonies—are intentional. But TU runs into the ubiquitous problem faced by all colonial powers at least since the Roman Empire: they start failing when their colonies are too far away to control.

But the ALS worlds have their problems too. Their society, except for their core planets, are feudal ones (maybe even those, but it’s not clear in the novel) with an aristocratic class lording it over the ordinary serfs who do most of the work. That makes for interesting situations.  Like all good sci-fi, the book is a comment on human beings and their social structures and clashes. In particular, ETs are only present here in an archaeological sense.

Main character Benno is a tech on an ALS small warship; he signed up with the ALS Navy to help pay off the strangling mortgage he received to start his farm. Mio, his daughter, is back on home planet Adelaide living with foster parents because her mother, Benno’s wife, died from a native disease, and daddy is off to war. The ALS fleet leaves Adelaide and five other worlds unprotected to mount a crushing attack on TU, but the latter takes those six planets with minimal forces. The novel focuses on the struggle to recover those planets, a struggle requiring Benno to lead a mutiny on his ship and Mio to come of age among Adelaide’s resistance fighters. Chapters alternate between Benno and Mio until it all comes together in a finale.

But what about the science? We don’t know enough about dark energy and matter (see The Cosmic Cocktail by Katherine Freese, a book I also reviewed for Bookpleasures) for me to say whether it’s reasonable to assume it can be used for an FTL drive, but there’s certainly enough of it around (whatever it is), so it’s an interesting plot concept. As an ex-scientist, I have to nitpick here: for the same reason that dark energy and matter is undetectable by current science, it can’t be a medium for Cerenkov radiation.

The futuristic space battles seem sound—the reader can almost see the worldline stretching from the U.S. Navy’s Aegis destroyer in Clancy’s Red Storm Rising to the starship Puller—although those battles also often seem a bit repetitive and tedious. I don’t know about the maneuvers, but weapons, sensor, and EW descriptions are reasonable extrapolations of current science. I suppose those ALS core worlds are all busy building everything they need for their space war.

The two authors’ backgrounds make the extrapolation of current Navy forces and weapons to starship fleets probably easier and a plausible one, leading to exciting action scenes. And, even if you subtract out all the far-out space battles from this story, you still have one about the love of a simple farmer for his young daughter. Indeed, the title should have been “The Mutineer and His Daughter” because Benno and his daughter Mio make two wonderful main characters who come alive.

Reading all of Benno’s chapters gives you the tale of an old-fashioned but reluctant war hero, who is forced to do things he wouldn’t normally do, like the hero in the movie The Patriot.  Reading all of Mio’s chapters leads to a young adult story about a thirteen-year-old struggling for relevance in a deadly adult environment, although I’d say at times she seems eight instead of thirteen (today’s young adults seem much more mature, but who knows in this society).

Two books in one! All that adds some seriousness to the fun, and this book was sure a lot of fun to read.