By Force of Arms by William Dietz (2000) – As you’ve probably guessed by now, I like space opera. Mr. Dietz is one of the primo shoot-em-up-in-space writers, and I enjoy his exciting writing a great deal. His space battles are second to none and offset his tendency to use way too many viewpoints (not at the same time) and – in this novel – his awkward attempt at placing his hero in a love triangle.
I started this book without realizing that there had been one or possibly two prequels to this novel. Although the author references battles and people from the previous works, he does it such a way that don’t leave you frustrated. Perhaps the cast of thousands would be a little better to understand if you knew their backgrounds, but basically this story is about the hero and his friends trying to protect Earth and its brother planets against a race of approaching sentient ships. To present as strong a force as possible, Colonel Bill Booly must recruit a heavy-gravity planet of xenophobes, an insect race of subversive warriors, and a planet of clones. All these races have representatives in the congress and each have their own idea of how to proceed with the battle ahead.
The scene where he takes the representatives and puts them in a boot camp on a hostile planet is excellent and gets the desired result the colonel is looking for – the different races can work together to ensure everyone’s survival.
There’s lots of politics and behind the scene deals. There’s even a cabal attempting to destroy the congress. The sentient ships have a human counseling them, a slimy miner who wants to convert everyone to the Word of God (as interpreted by him) or else be destroyed. The ships only want to destroy one race, a cat-like group of nomads who have recently asked to join the confederation. Congress sees that as no big loss if the rest of them are spared, but the colonel knows better. He ignores his girlfriend, the niece of a wise old cyborg who is helping him put together a combat fleet, and she runs off with a clone who is in congress with her (in every definition of the word).
As excellent as the big battle scene is when it comes, it’s diluted a bit by this love triangle that never really gets explored or finalized. I really think if he wasn’t going to use it to its full potential, he should have skipped it.
A parrot girl, also captured by the intelligent ships (called the Sheen for their inpenetrable force fields which shimmer), realizes why the ships’ primary goal is to destroy the cat-people and tries to tell the colonel and the niece, but the wise old cyborg gets the information in time to use it to save the day.
It’s a very exciting read and a fast one. Aside from the undeveloped love triangle, I have no complaints. I didn’t even mind the multiple points of view as long as the primary players got to carry most of the story.
I’m not sure I buy the reason the Sheen want to destroy the cat people, but I guess it’s feasible.
I’ll pick up another Dietz at my first opportunity.