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Fire with Fire Mass Market Paperback – February 25, 2014
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About the Author
Charles E. Gannon is a breakthrough rising star in science fiction with a multiple short story and novella publications in Baen anthologies, Man-Kzin Wars XIII, Analog, and elsewhere. Gannon is coauthor with Steve White of Extremis, the latest entry in the legendary Starfire series created by David Weber. His most recent novel is 1635: The Papal Stakes cowritten with alternate history master, Eric Flint. A multiple Fulbright scholar, Gannon is Distinguished Professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University.
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Fire with Fire is a funny book. As a science fiction book, there are a lot of cool ideas. As a thriller, Gannon has a nice grasp on tension and the twist. But, again, as a science fiction book, it fails at worldbuilding. There is too much telling, and not enough showing. Sometimes in explanation of those twists, in a nice example of the sometimes inevitable tensions between genres. It does read easy, more like a 350-page book than a 700-page book. They fade as the book progresses, but Gannon has annoying tics, none more so than Caine’s status as a polymath. Merriam-Webster tells me that, in our world, a polymath is “a person of encyclopedic learning.” In the world on Fire with Fire, on the other hand, it’s a dang super power. Too much of the book is burned on characters marveling over Caine the polymath or explaining something we could have been shown.
There's some slow bits but mostly the plot rolls forward, with a mix of interesting characters and situations. One female character has the silly "tiny women with kung-fu training can effectively fight men" (without magic, gengineering or cybernetics) trope but it's necessary for one of the subplots, so it's not too distracting. Altogether an enjoyable read - I'm looking forward to the next book.
I am the type person who will often skim pages when a book becomes boring. The story was paced very well and there were no excruciatingly long, multi-paragraph, obligatory background sessions, so I didn't find myself skipping paragraphs in this book.
On the downside, with all the plot twists and points of interest, it was as if the characters simply forgot about earlier points of interest that should have either been resolved or enhanced for the reader. The biggest ball the author dropped was the identity of the mystery race who apparently transported humans from earth to Delta Pavonis. I suspect this will come to light in the next book, however the author completely dropped the subject for the last half of the book. it was never again addressed although it was a huge deal.
Lastly, the failure to come back and re-visit these items was also a failure in causing the reader to end the book with eager anticipation of the next.
Unfortunately, much has changed while he was away. Humanity discovered faster than light travel and has started to colonize the stars.
Fortunately, Riordan is a polymath - a person of wide-ranging knowledge and learning - capable of making intuitive leaps.
Just as well, because he's press-ganged on a mission to the Delta Pavonis system where all is not as it seems. Rival parties are intent on establishing control of certain...commodities. Commodities that may, or may not be linked to a primitive species hiding in the surrounding jungles.
As Riordan throws himself into his work, he discovers there might also be more to that species than people think.
Needless to say, mishap and mayhem abound, with assassins and saboteurs around every corner. But why?
I'll give you a clue. Suddenly, it become clear there's more, much more than Delta Pavonis under the microscope.
This is the first story I've read by Charles Gannon, and I've got to say, I liked it.
Well paced and fun to read.