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Book Note: Michael Wallace, Starship Blackbeard

I read this book about 3-Feb-2017. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2014. This note was last modified Friday, 03-Mar-2017 19:57:11 PST.

This is book 0 of the "Starship Blackbeard" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Read, in fact, the first four, which I will kind of treat as one here. Additional titles are Lords of Space>/cite>, Dreadnought, and Rebellion of Stars. This series is self-published.

The plot is certainly big enough. Earth is sort-of at war with the Hroom empire, but they're a big old fading empire, and they're ravaged by sugar addiction. We seem to be deliberately feeding that addiction, and turning them into slaves. We also have a number of free Hroom working with us, including officers in the (space) navy. And we've got a very Anglophilic space empire, ruled from the planet New Albion.

Our hero, Captain James Drake, is being sent off to the Helium-3 mines after being convicted by a court-martial of something he didn't do. His executive officer and many others on his ship mutiny, and rescue him and the other prisoners and head off with the stolen ship (and Drake back in charge). He's very conflicted about the mutiny, but they do manage to talk him out of turning himself (and them) in immediately.

Basically, Drake exemplifies what the aristocracy is supposed to be like (loyal up and down, completely committed to doing their duty), and Admiral Malthorpe is kind of a caricature of what far too many people in real-world aristocracies with power are like (greedy, corrupt, no loyalty up or down, and a coward).

The ships have very strong ties to Horatio Hornblower's navy; they have maximum speeds, they slow down when not using their engines (that's never explained but several of the battle secquences seem to prove it), the guns have carriages and can be dismounted (though they don't seem to run away and threaten to plunge through the sides and sink the ship), the Hroom have a weapon called a "serpentine", etc. They're also stealthy.

Yes, this series is based on Helium-3 mines and stealth in space. (If you don't get why that's funny, go ask James Nicoll to explain it).

Okay, just very briefy, Helium-3 isn't terribly desirable for fusion reactions compared to other fuels, though it had a brief vogue, and stealth is hard in space for a ship kept at livable temperatures for humans because of black-body radiation, that would make it stand out really brightly in the infrared, against the very dark background.

Basically, there's some okay action-adventure writing, the characters aren't as bad as they could be and there's some development (though some of them just don't make much sense), and the background doesn't bear thinking about. Kinda fun for mindless entertainment though.


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David Dyer-Bennet