- Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Baen (December 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0671319582
- ISBN-13: 978-0671319588
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,680,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dykstra'S War Mass Market Paperback – November 28, 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
Second, it is a throwback to the grand old days of Sci-fi where the hero is an engineer or scientist and is wrestling with really big questions. Not so good as I have enjoyed the fact that Sci-Fi has matured beyond the always-right-but-ignored superhero main character.
Third, it adds a certain religious taste to Sci-Fi. I didn't hate it as much as other reviewers but I have to admit that a discussion or souls (or lack of them) in a hard sci-fi setting was a bit jarring. Fourth is a set of linked science fiction mysteries about the origin and nature of the aliens. This ties directly into the discussion of souls. I thought the evidence pointed in a particular direction and was a bit sad when the author took it in a totally different but reasonable direction. That's the breaks, the author did the work of writing the story and has the final say over the direction of the story.
Fifth, almost as jarring as the discussion of souls was the character development over the entire book. This doesn't normally happen this sub-genre but it was well handled and added quite a lot to my enjoyment of the story.
I'm a bit sad that this book appears to be the only one written by this author. Overall he did a good job and he deserved a chance to write something else.
The last gauge of whether I really enjoyed a book: I came looking for other books by the same author. Since its his first book, I guess I have to wait.
The Phinons rank among the most well-conceived aliens I've ever read about. A pet peeve of mine for years has been that I HATE childish nonsense about anthropomorphic "humanoid" aliens. I can pardon the original Star Trek because it was a 1960's TV show with a limited budget, but novelists have no excuse. Not only are the insectoid Phinons not human-shaped, but even their physiology & biochemistry are alien, with a high metal content in their bodies and "muscles" that work more like hydraulic pistons. However, the cleverest thing about them is their psychology, or rather the lack of it: they are hive insects writ large. Their "technology," like bees' construction of a hive or a hermit crab's use of a snail shell, is simply a behavior they evolved over eons, with spaceships full of weird, curvilinear shapes that no one would have deliberately designed. So despite their technology, which combined with their aggressive territoriality makes them incredibly dangerous, they are not merely stupid, they are arguably mindless. There can be no reasoning with them, and outwitting them is more like outwitting an animal than a human being. I thought this was a very clever insight into the nature of consciousness. And their environment! They live out in the Oort comet clouds surrounding solar systems. These stellar clouds overlap one another, allowing the Phinons to slowly leapfrog across the entire galaxy the way the proverbial squirrel could once hop from treetop to treetop from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. Brilliant stuff.
Unfortunately, the author's grasp of human psychology is much poorer than his grasp of his aliens'. The novel opens with humanity involved in a solar system-wide civil war which all the participants seem to agree is unjustified and pointless, but are none-the-less eager to engage in to make heroes of themselves. I would think that, at least in a society with a free press, this kind of public attitude would collapse after only a couple of months' worth of real combat and body bags.
The addressing of religion in the novel interests but troubles me. I am a Christian, I've never found any serious conflict between my spiritual and scientific beliefs, and I applaud authors who combine the two skillfully ("Out of the Silent Planet" by C.S. Lewis is my favorite example. "Dragons Can Only Rust" & "Dragon Reforged" by Chris Cymri are wonderful, too.). Unfortunately, Kooistra's efforts, though doubtless well-intentioned, feel forced. It's a difficult subject to write about, and I respect him for trying. The single most glaring flaw in his approach is that nearly all of his characters are Christians of one stripe or another. We meet one agnostic who doesn't do much except say "I'm agnostic" and then walk offstage. Where are all the Jews and Muslims and Hindus and atheists and Moonies? There's nothing in the narrative to imply that there was a huge wave of conversions at some point in future history. The omission of characters who disagree with you is a mistake I used to make when I was first starting to write, and if Kooistra continues to write fiction he may get over it. Diatribes against faith are so common in s.f. that it's nice to see an intelligent writer take a different tack. And anyway, the Phinons' peculiar psychology certainly lends itself to discussion of the soul and its relationship to consciousness (it's almost like a novel about artificial intelligence in that respect), so I think religion had to be brought up one way or another.
Dykstra, the super-scientist main character, is a walking Deus Ex Machina. For every problem that arises, he sits down, thinks real hard about it for a while, and then designs a gizmo to fix it. He is quite likeable, but after a while you can't help but want to see him get stumped by something, and it never happens.
The prose style is amateurish.
So... three stars out of five. Not great, but I'm still glad I read it.
You might like this book if you're a devoted Christian without high standards.