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Baptism of Fire Paperback – May 1, 1993
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Which is fine, I suppose. An unreliable narrator is a useful device. But it is rather jarring to be told constantly how wonderful the meritocrats are when they exhibit precisely the opposite traits from those they are claiming.
But the primary problem with this novel is that it tells you very little about anything else.
This novel was written to be an 18th century sea saga and then translated into a space setting. No attempt is made to give any sort of technological explanation as to why the technology they use is so limited (Example: The ship has no power generation capability, only batteries, so brutal energy discipline must be in effect. But why? We can build a submarine with a nuclear pile; why can't they put one in this ship? Only reasonable explanation: there wasn't one in an 18th century sailing ship.)That kind of ignored technical aspect in a space novel is almost unforgiveable. Give us a black box or a physical law or...something. Don't make the reader work it out.
Also, there is a great deal of talking about the difficulties of navigation, but those difficulties are thing like weather and currents. Weather? In one sequence, offhand mention is made of avoiding reefs when entering orbit. Reefs? They travel using sails, but without further explanation.
And that is odd because this novel talks a great deal considering that nothing much happens.
A number of characters are introduced, although only the officers (Really? One officer to every thousand crew?) are at all fleshed out. Virtually all of them are disposed of abruptly in the latter part of the novel. Those that remain had but little effect on the plot. No one has any effect on the plot but the main character and she does very little indeed. Most of the character development is people being tired and being ordered to bed.
Forget action, by the way. It isn't here. One tense and heavily built up sequence is resolved with a single paragraph and promptly forgotten.
I don't know what was being attempted in this novel beyond writing a sea saga that stars a young woman without being obviously ahistorical. If there's one thing it does accomplish, it's the writing of a novel that makes you want to spit in the face of every character in it. It would be interesting to see where it goes from here and I will probably spring for the sequel. But I'm rooting for the bad guys to win.