The Desert of Stars, by Lumpley Rothdas book review RSS
4.0 Stars

Like the first book, doesn't quite cohere as a novel. The author continues to tell the story of nearish future, hardish sci-fi, space war. I feel though that what he really wants to do is write a history book about that war, rather than a novel set in that war. So there are chapters about diplomacy, and espionage, and space battles, and land battles, and the author somehow has to find a way to have a relatively small cast of characters be involved in all of these things on all of these planets. So you end up with a fair bit of whiplash? dislocation? as characters are rapidly moved around, and no one setting or ensemble really has a chance to gel. It feels like a play where stagehands are constantly running about and changing the scenery as characters try to get out just a few lines. This isn't helped by the author's style of writing, which seems influenced by his time as a news reporter and sticks to a bare and spare style most of the time.

A more modest criticism I would make is that a lot of the espionage and plot developments are rooted in a 1960's CIA view of things, where direct and active ops are used to try and change the course of nations. In the real world, these tactics backfired spectacularly over and over again, as covered in Legacy of Ashes/Jakarta Method, and were mostly superseded by the less risky and more effective method of finding and supporting right-wing crazies in the target country. E.g. on January 6th, Russia did not send a team of Spetsnaz to try and disrupt the transfer of power. Rather, Russia spent years funding and supporting the worst people and aspects of American society, which in turn helped lead organically to Jan 6th and a host of other disasters. You can see how the second method, while slower, is much more effective and has much less risk of blow back.

Anyway, despite these criticisms, and despite the fact that this trilogy of books is likely never going to be finished, I am oddly here for what the author is doing. I find the setting to be extra-ordinarily crunchy, I like the generally real-politik and historically aware world building, and I like how the books are quite fast paced. This was a one-setting meal for me, which is rare.