on 28 June 2011
This book collects the first few entries of the 'Early' era in Chandler's saga of John Grimes of the Federation Survey Service. It's very odd. Although written originally in the late 1960s, the science is more reminiscent of that found in the novels of, say, E.E. 'Doc' Smith, some 25 or more years earlier. The characters are very 60s, though. Much free love in space, man. Grimes himself is a close affiliate of C.S. Forester's Hornblower; he gets up his seniors' noses, but comes out, largely, with his clean. So he progresses from a raw recruit thru' the service, which has a structure closely resembling the Royal Navy. If you are a fan of space opera, then it's something you should find a good read; quirky, but interesting. Probably not for those who started reading science fiction with Iain M. Banks.
This started well, with the first story really setting the scene of a future spread of humanity among the stars well, with the outer rimworlds not far off secession, with politics and piracy mixing nicely. After that, it kind of all fell apart into a weird mixture of sex and mysticism, with a little adventure on the side. Some bits were OK, some weren't. After reading the first story, I was planning to get the whole Baen collection of "John Grimes" stories, but by the time I had finished the book I had decided against getting any more.
Other reviewers at Amazon US (and the product description) point out that this is a collection of 3 novels and an anthology of short stories. I do understand that this is a collection of the early-era Grimes written over a number of years, out of chronological order. But it didn't feel like the billing of "Hornblower in space" and just did not grab me.
Tastes differ, and you might like it if you enjoy a bit of ... well, sex and mysticism in a sci-fi (but not space opera) setting. While the stuff set as spaceship adventure was good - and had that "used future" feel where there is a degree of verisimilitude - when Chandler stopped writing about being on a tramp steamer cum spaceship, a lot of the sparkle got lost and it became pretty humdrum stuff.
If the rest of the Grimes stuff was back to space travel, well, I'd be interested, but I understand that's not the case. So be aware that if you use the Baen free sample to read a chunk of the first story, that what follows is different in kind.