Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Review: A Sword Into Darkness

Title: A Sword Into Darkness
Author: Thomas A. Mays
Genre: Military SF
Price: $3.99 (ebook) $14.39 (paperback)
Publisher: Amazon
ISBN 978-1939398086
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

There’s an ongoing debate in Science Fiction at the moment.  One very loud faction says people are abandoning SF because all our stories are “social justice novels” and we’re handing out awards not for good work but to hit a racial / ethnic / gender checklist.  Since I vote on one of the awards (the Hugos) I found that argument rather unconvincing. 

One of the gentlemen on the other side, I discovered, had penned an SF novel entitled A Sword Into Darkness. The ebook price was right, so I bought it and read it.

Overall, it's a pretty good book - I'd give it three stars. The action is engaging, the science is solid, and his invading aliens have unique motivations and modes of travel. (It's important to figure out why they are moving so slowly.)

But it's not a 4 or 5 star book.

Sword is in many ways old-fashioned. Chapter 1 is a temper tantrum thrown when a wealthy alt-space guy can't convince NASA with five (5) (five!!!!!) months of telescopic data that the aliens are coming. After five months, with dozens of telescopes and hundreds of astronomers looking, everybody would know the aliens are coming. Yet NASA somehow keeps the lid on the invasion for decades.

So, in Chapter 3, wealthy industrialist decides to invest his billions in developing and building the type of tech we'd need to defeat the invasion. This goes surprisingly smoothly, despite government interference (of course the government interferes - ignore the fact that they're paying SpaceX and others) and has few technical glitches. (It's only rocket science, after all.) 

Oh, and there's a hijacking of a ship that I saw coming for a while. And the US Secretary of Defense has to be fired in order to put a stop to his obstructionism. (It's only an alien invasion.)  Meanwhile, the lead female character, a quirky and tattooed scientist who invents the Magic Drive that runs the ship is romancing the square-jawed ex-USN captain of Humanity's Only Hope.

Now, despite all of this I did find the story entertaining. Also, the aliens were unique, so it's not all recycled material. But there's a lot of recycling going on. It was enjoyable, but cotton candy for the mind.  It will not be on my Hugo list.


Unknown said...

Just to check facts here, but I am not "one of the gentleman on the other side." Chris Gerrib had me confused with James May. I am not part of the Sad Puppies movement, nor any other movement. I just like to write old school, military Sf. Chris may have found it too tropish, but a lot of folks seem to have liked it. Thanks for the mention on your blog, though! Take care.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I keep linking Thomas Mays with Sad Puppies due to his statement that Back when I had dim hopes that I might make the Sad Puppy slate (one side of the Hugo controversy), I might have had a slot, but it was not to be. and his publicly-announced Hugo nomination list which closely tracks that of the Sad Puppies.

Now, I freely admit Mr. Thomas Mays is nowhere near as fervent a Puppy as others of this group, but there's a clear relationship.

In any event, although this Hugo voter thinks A Sword Into Darkness isn't Hugo-worthy (unless we're talking a retro-Hugo for the mid-1940s) I have to say it beats the pants off of Turncoat.

Unknown said...

Hmmm, well, desiring to appear on an open recommendation slate, and becoming a gentleman on the other side, would seem to me to be two very different things. But the way you define things may be different from mine. My actual views on both sides are well summed up on my blog, Still, all the best, and I hope folks like the book.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Chris, hope this finds you well. Just wanted to extend to you a chance to review my latest, THE MUTINEER'S DAUGHTER, written with Chris Kennedy. If you're in the mood for some mil-SF, similar to be different from A SWORD INTO DARKNESS, I'd love to get your thoughts. If so, please email me at