on 15 March 2006
Composed by the Mutineer's Moon, Armageddon Inheritance, and Heirs of Empire, David Weber's Dahak series is space opera in the best of traditions.
The premise of the first book is that our Moon isn't a rock, but an old mechanism of immense capabilities and secrets unimaginable, until the main character is kidnapped by it. The mutinners of the title are on Earth, and have been fighting amongst themselves for the last millenia, and now, as Mankind is ready to take back the stars, this secret conflict goes full throttle.
The various characters are introduced along the way, as is the technology, with the characteristic Weber gravity wank (TM) taken to certain unnecessary extremes (warp grenades without radiation side effects? Yeah, right. Space fold links inside your brain? Tumours must love them...). Sometimes this is off-putting, as if Weber is compelled to write more and more extravagant means to acomplish a certain task, when simpler, and more believable methods are available. (Oh, yes, infodumps are kept to a minumum.)
Anyway, the story goes along very well, jumping between characters from time to time so we know what's going on. Unfortunately, as the story deals with world-wide scale events, this isn't portrayed as well as it could be, though to do so, the first book would be the size of one of Clancy's late novels. Not what you want to read as space opera.
One other problem that I found is the main female's character use of Archaic English, making for a difficult read at times, especially for us, non-English speakers. At some points, I just skipped on what Tanith's saying, since I didn't understand one word of what she means (this for all three books! I know the woman's proud, but she could at least learn a few sentences, damnit!).
So, the first story is as far as I'm concerned the best of the three, a fast-paced, action-packed romp. but there were two more along the way...
The second story picks up after the end of Mutineer's Moon, as Dahak warns the aliens are coming, so Earth must prepare itself to repel the invasion, as it deals with the reality of its inheritance.
This book can be broken down into two parts: the defense of Earth against the Achulltani (sp?), and the search for the remnants of the old Imperium. Both will eventually mesh into one on the last third of the story, in which certain plot elements (mentioned several chapters before and seen a mile away as soon as they appear), are resolved and so we have to plod through the numbers until it happens... This leadds me to another of my quibbles with this second part.
At some point, the numbers become just that: numbers. Just like that Stalin saying of a million being a statistic, Weber throws thousands and millions of missiles and spaceships, or hundreds and thousands of kilometres by the bucketload that they become noise, and irrelevant. There is no feel for Earth's desperate fight against the invading aliens, except for the named characters that die, nor the damage done.
In the end, I just went for the exploratory part of the story, since it was more compelling than to read about twenty million ships releasing slavo upon salvo of missiles, creating a thousand kilometre crater on the hulls of millions of starships... Bleh...
In short, certain plot elements are discerned a mile away before they happen, and there's too much background noise to notice Earth's hanging by a thread on anihilation. Weber truly comes on his own in small actions with a limited cast of characters, not in epic battles. But then again, with so much numbers being thrown around, who can?
After everything is over, we come to the third book and final instalment.
Now with the alien menace over, it's time to rebuild the Empire back to its glory. Unfortunately, friends of enemies of old, conveniently forgoten in the second book, are back for revenge.
In the midst of all this, Colin and Tanith's kids are flying around the galaxy, and due to the bad guys machinations end up stranded on a (more or less) unfriendly planet.
Again, this book can be parted into two stories, back home, dealing with conspirators and traitors, and the kids, which need to access a Imperium computer to call home.
The second part is the more compelling one, and takes a good part of the book, as the kids discover the ancient Imperium civilization reverted to a kind of 17th century European state of affairs. Weber uses this as an excuse to write some alternative history with the kids bringing more advanced technologies to the planet inhabitants, large battles ensuing (as usual...).
Problems with this final instalment in the series? The end comes as rushed, everything is settled in just a couple of chapters, or stated as it happened/happens off-stage, leaving the reader to conclude the book in his/her imagination. An anti-climax to a good series.
In conclusion, and as a whole, Empire from the Ashes is a great space opera compilation, with some flaws, but enjoyable none the less.