Undercurrents (Orphan's Legacy) Paperback – 14 Jul 2011
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About the Author
Robert Buettner served as an Army intelligence officer. After his discharge, he continued as an Army reservist and became a geologist and then a lawyer specializing in natural resources.Buettner has the licks of a modern-day Robert A. Heinlein when it comes to science fiction storytelling. He currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia."
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The author is capable of combining elements of classic sci-fi movies like Aliens or Starship Troopers, but add both incredibly descriptive elements with the added bonus of first person thoughts and observations. I liked the book quite a bit, and recommend it to anyone that enjoys this genre. I would recommend too, however, that someone start at the beginning of the series. It was (for me, a certified bonehead) a bit overwhelming early on to gather all the differences between the alien races and their back history with each other.
jazen and his partner were dropped in from low orbit with a pod of equipment and things went bad from the start. The HALO drop, High Altitude. Low Orbit, killed Jazen's partner, nearly killed him, and lost half his equipment from the pod, including communications, before he landed miles off tasrget from the Iridian pick-up boat.
And then things really got bad.
A book full of action piled on action as Jazen goes about trying to accomplish his mission and the old man's, while a Yevet officer pursued him.
This is a fine series so far. I haven't read the five Jason Wander novels that precede it, something I need to rectify.
Jazen is recruited to parachute onto the hostile planet Trestl to find out why the previous spy team went silent and to find out what nefarious spies from Yavet are secretly doing there. He also has to rescue another spy being held captive by the Yavi. And to foil the Yavi plot which will start an interplanetary war if it succeeds.
Our hero escapes from scores of dangers. But a few times, he does so only because of incredible coincidences or incredible luck.
Kit Born, a United States Army colonel assigned to special operations, is violating the Human Union Charter by conducting surveillance upon the planet Tressel. She hopes to determine why military officers in Tressen (one of Tressel's two nations) are collaborating with military officers from the planet Yavet. Unfortunately for Kit, she's captured by the Yavi and held by Major Ruberd Polian, Yavet's ranking military officer on Tressel pending the arrival of General Gill. Point of view then shifts to that of Jazen Parker, a retired special ops officer who owns a tavern on Mousetrap. Jazen is recruited to complete Kit's mission on Tressel. He reluctantly agrees to resume his military career only because a secondary objective of the mission is to locate Kit. As far as Jazen is concerned, his mission is to rescue his former lover.
Tressel is a sparsely populated planet but members of its two nations -- the Tressens and the Iridians -- have hated each other for centuries. The Tressens oppress the Iridians by denying them the right to own property and to procreate. The Iridians rebel as best they can. Jazen needs Iridian support to spy on the Tressens and to that end he is assisted by a one-handed man named Pyt and an eleven-year-old girl named Alia. They are charged with leading Jazen to the Iridian rebel leader, Celline, who -- like Princess Leia -- is descended from royalty.
In the best tradition of action fiction, things go wrong for Jazen from the start. In a scene that is reminiscent of Starship Troopers, Jazen plunges to the surface of Tressel from an orbiting ship. His insertion doesn't go as planned, leaving Jazen injured and isolated as he struggles with amphibians that want to turn him into lunch. Soon after that he finds himself fleeing from Major Polian and the Tressen navy. At some point the chapters begin to alternate between Jazen's first person account of his actions and third person descriptions of the events surrounding Polian and Gill. The Polian/Gill chapters eventually reveal the reason for the Yavi's sudden interest in Tressel.
Unlike Pyt, Alia, and Celline, Polian and Gill are interesting characters. Polian has the sense of honor and duty that are standard in military science fiction, but he's also plagued by insecurity. Gill, unlike Polian, has reservations about Yavet's policy of controlling population growth by killing illegal newborns. Polian favors torture while Gill insists on playing by the rules. Neither one trusts the other and there may be good reason for the mistrust. The conflict between the characters adds a bit of needed depth to the story.
Jazen is less interesting. He is a "Trueborn" (his parents are from Earth) but he was born illegally on Yavet, never knew his parents, and spent his young life trying to avoid extermination. Despite that background, Jazen is a stock "reluctant warrior" character, unhappy to be uprooted from a life of relative peace and returned to the landscape of battle. Given his background (he identifies neither with the Yavi nor the Truebloods), Jazen is a surprisingly dull guy. Kit is virtually a nonentity; she's there to give Jazen something to do. Kit exudes a shallow idealism that is supposed to conflict with Jazen's pragmatic desire to keep her safe. It isn't convincing. As is usually true of military science fiction, however, the characters in Undercurrent are secondary to the plot-driven story.
Three minor gripes: (1) Gill asks Polian a number of basic questions about the reason for Yavi collaboration with the Tressens. While the ensuing dialog educates the reader, it makes no sense that Gill wouldn't have that information before assuming command of the Yavi operation. (2) Saddling Jazen with a wise-beyond-her-years eleven-year-old spying partner is an obvious contrivance that might appeal to preadolescent (maybe even early adolescent) readers but it didn't work for me. Despite an ending that attempts to make her significant, Alia adds nothing but empty chatter to the story. (3) The method by which Undercurrents sets up the next book in the series is a bit too obvious.
Gripes notwithstanding, I liked Undercurrents. The story moves quickly, the actions scenes are well done, and the plot is satisfying if unspectacular. Hardcore fans of military science fiction will almost certainly enjoy it, while fans of action-oriented sf will likely find it a pleasant enough read.
I have always enjoyed science fiction novels, and find it intriguing to read about different adventures involving advanced technology and alien cultures. Undercurrents is more of a futuristic military science fiction novel. It has minimal involvement with alien species and is in fact more human in nature than I expected. The only uniquely different alien culture mentioned was annihilated by humans during a defensive campaign.
The major characters on the side of "right" include Jazen Parker (the main character), Kit Born (she is Jazen's romantic interest), Celline, Alia, and Pyt. The major antagonists are Major Polian, and Lt Gen Gill. The key races include Trueborn (Earth-born humans), Yavi (humans that came from an overpopulated and crowded world), and Tressen/iridian (humans that developed on a more backwater planet). The Trueborn are the only humans to possess C-drive technology which allows faster than light propulsion. This C-drive is powered by cavorite, a mineral that only the Trueborns control, leaving the Yavi to suffer living in an overpopulated world.
Some of the technology includes the Trueborns' Eternad armored suits, which aren't as high-tech as the Yavi's powered suit. However, towards the end of the story, a simple weakness of the Yavi armor is revealed. As an engineer, I find it idiotic for the Yavi to field something so important with such a glaring weak spot. It is on the same level of foolishness as the vent port on the first Death Star in Star Wars.
I felt the story was very well written. Buettner utilizes smooth transitions from chapter to chapter and often switches points of views during each chapter. This was done seamlessly and each chapter drew me to the next. The conclusion sets up the book for a sequel, although there are lots of unexplained/undeveloped background characters that are probably better explained in prequel novels (e.g., Jazen's parents and their relationship with Celline). The fate of General Gill wasn't explained in Undercurrents, so we may see him again in the next book.
Overall: 5/5 stars, must-read for fans of military sci-fi books/stories.