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First Strike Paperback – September 23, 2014
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This book is perhaps a little less complex and a bit lighter on the characters than most of his other books but it is a good straightforward space action story. The core of the story is humanity kicking some serious behinds after being bullied by a overconfident alien race bent on expansion. This kind of story is right up my alley so it was of course easy for me to take a liking to it and maybe overlook the fact that it was a somewhat lighter read than many of the authors books.
I fail to understand why some reviewers feel it is disjointed and that there are too many characters and so on. It is nothing of the kind. There are really not that many characters compared to many books. The characters themselves might be a wee bit on the light side in terms of depth and development though but I think they are just right for this type of book. The story is quite straightforward and follows a quite logical thread. Somewhat predictable perhaps but, as I wrote above, it is my kind of story and I like that it moves forward at a fairly brisk pace without too many politicians and dimwits ruining the plans for the good guys.
In short, the humans kick some serious behinds despite being heavily outmatched, matching quantity by quality in terms of knowledge of warfare and imagination in using the technology they have been given. In the background there is a mysterious race said to be in decline but that have bootstrapped most of the “younger races” into space. I would say that there is a quite interesting scenario set up for future books in this universe and I would not mind if more were written. That said the author already have a number of good series running so I would be a bit scared of him overstretching himself with yet another series.
The adversary is an alien race is nicknamed the Funk. They are hard-scrabble, reptilian, barbarians who had just learned to work iron when they were discovered by the Galactic Association. The Funk obtained galactic technology and conquered several hundred neighboring star systems. Now the Funk Hegemony, with a barbarian conquest ethic at the heart of their identity, threatens Earth.
An earthly parallel to the Funk is Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde whose cruel tactics conquered most of Eurasia and the Middle East. But with the Golden Horde, no matter how harsh the conquest, within a generation or three, the earthly barbarians were absorbed into civilization or vice versa thru interbreeding. Unfortunately, this is not an option between alien species. So there is no end of cruelty from the Funk masters to their conquered slave races.
Earth and its paltry nine colony planets are vastly outnumbered by the Funk. The Funk think earthlings are weak and the weak are only fit to be slaves. Earth’s only option is to strike first. Ironically, as human civilization supplanted our own barbarous past, we developed a doctrine for “total war.”
The Funk birth rate is four males to one female. I know it’s just a book and I really should relax, but assuming haploid zygotes, a ratio of three-to-one would infer that Funk femininity is just a recessive gene.
I detect a little homage to Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy in the epilog about an alien benefactor to Earth named "Mentor."
Christopher Nuttall's kindle books usually have lots of typos. I highlight them as find them, not counting the British spelling, of course, even for American characters. However, when I went back to check, to my surprise, I didn’t see any errors. Either I’ve gotten used to the typos, or I was too absorbed in the story to notice, or just possibly, there weren’t as many to catch. I only had one highlight at location 3214, which was just a quote I liked.
First, the positive. While "First Strike" is not my favorite of his work (that I've read), I do think it is his most evenhanded, balanced work. Pacing was spot on, the tech and war tactics/strategy was dealt with practically, the plot works.
But. I don't think Mr. Nuttall has found all of his 'voice' yet. My belief is that he has a much bigger mind and imagination then he is able to communicate, yet. In his mind, i suspect the characters are much richer, the plots deeper, the sociology wider. I am waiting for him to get it all to paper, and I wait patiently - because I think he's gonna get there and effing blow me away. :-)
Also, and to be fair, I'm comparing him to my readership of sci-fi, which is 49 years deep and averages 2-3 boks/week over that period. I'm comparing him to Niven and Pournelle, Cherryh, Clarke, Brin, Card, Panshin, Harrison, Martin, Zelazny, Herbert, Robinson, Steele, Aspirin, Moon, Lynn, Dickson and Bester, just to name a very few. That's a hell of a grading curve.
"First Strike" isn't up to those standards, but still a fun read. Mr. Nuttall isn't at the top of his game, yet. But I wait patiently, with a smile. Because I think he's got the goods, and in the long run, he's gonna stand with all those authors I'm stacking him up against. Mr. Nuttall, please keep writing. :-)