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Hard Duty: Merkiaari Wars (Volume 1) Paperback – August 20, 2012
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Top customer reviews
This book has a particularly annoying multiple cliff hanger ending in which all the story lines are left completely unresolved. Worse is the fact the author revisits, in the most shallow way possible, a story line untouched for hundreds of pages just to move it abruptly to the cliff. A real slap in the reader's face.
There are some rather grating inconsistencies in the development the story and some plot problems that simply don't fly. Potential spoilers follow you have been warned.
Problems with the Shan.
While the shan are an interesting alien species and the author spends a fair amount of effort in their development there is a glaring flaw. In the past the Merkiaari invade the Shan's system. The Shan are very primitive and are nearly exterminated before they are able to defeat their invaders by gaining access to their enemies weapons. The Shan are able to jumpstart their technological development by using captured Merkiaari technology. They also develop a cultural aspect in which every living Shan is taught to fight and keeps weapons available to fight off the Merkiaari should they return. A major part of their infrastructure includes fortresses sufficient to house and defend their population should an invader manages to land on their planets. They are a species of naturally instinctive hunters who prize the primitive aspects of the hunt even as they develop further and further from it. This conditioning has been a part of their culture for dozens (hundreds?) of generations.
When the Shan learn that humans are in their systems hundreds of thousands of them flee their cities in a panic to hide in the forest. Yeah, probably not the reaction of a culture literally taught from childhood to oppose alien invaders with deadly force. Eventually in the book the Merkiaari return to the Shan system. The Shan defense fleet although out numbered attempts to defend their planets. They, with the help of an outdated human cruiser converted to exploration, manage to destroy the invading warships but their transports "slip past" to land. Based on the extent of the landings the transports must have out numbered the alien warships by an order of magnitude but none of the defending ships noticed them until it was too late.
So the aliens land and begin slaughtering the Shan, every one of whom is armed with weapons sufficient to kill their attackers. There is some hand waving about how the Shan defenses had to be mobile and couldn't be dug in so the attackers have superior mounted weapons and kill hundreds of thousands if not millions more or less in the first day. Nope. Simply not possible. Bombard them from orbit? Okay that's possibly reasonable. Land and off load your troops in the face of millions of individually armed militia supported by highly trained regular troops, all of whom have been readying themselves for this day? Not a chance. The invaders would be slaughtered immediately. They might well kill hundreds of thousands of Shan, but they'd be overwhelmed. The Shan warriors would take out the enemy's heavy weapons, and regular alien troops would eventually fall to shear weight of numbers.
Shima, a non-warrior female geneticist, who has often hunted with her father, kills five of the enemy who are distracted by what amounts to a series of flash bang attacks more or less single handily. Her support does blast a couple near the end of the engagement but she did most of the damage in hand to hand combat against a fully armed enemy. Out side of the "Mary Sue" aspects of this, how are we expected to believe that the true warriors heavily armed and continually training for this war are so easily neutralized? Sorry simply doesn't fly.
Problems with Eric's cliff hanger.
Eric is a "viper" a cyborg with heavy computer and genetic enhancements. We are repeated told that when in "battle mode" his systems continually and automatically do threat assessments and ensure that he can't be surprised. In fact he can "scan" through walls for extended distances. The cliff hanger has his identity get blown and he flees the encampment he was spying on into the jungle, where he is distracted enough to get jumped from above by a big nasty critter. See the problem? Anything big enough to have jumped down to try to eat him would have tripped the computer warning long before he got there. As I said a vary annoying cliff hanger.
This is not a bad book. It plods in places, and the various story lines are not well blended, but it's not a terrible read. If you want the stories resolved you will have to buy the next book.
I didn't love it that much but there were parts I enjoyed. The Shan are an interesting race of aliens, more interesting than the humans in the story in fact. And there's a bit of a cat and mouse game before first contact that was fun. The humans, unfortunately, are not as well developed and tend to do stupid things.
This book covers first contact between humans and Shan with war with another race -- the Big Baddies -- looming in the background. If you enjoy series and military fiction, you'll probably enjoy it.
Cooper has even given us a historical back drop, detailing what happened to the humans with another species, the Merkiaari, and a devastating war over 200yrs ago. The war nearly decimated the Human race but they managed to hold their own, and eventually turned the tide. Part of this is owed to a special Elite unit called the Vipers, specially developed Cyborgs. The best soldiers with a unique set of personality traits were chosen to be ‘modified’.
It is 200yrs later that Humanity is only just starting to come back out into space fully, having spent that time repairing all of their colonies (those that could be fixed), fortifying their planets and space, and re-arming just in case.
Now, 200yrs on, they have come across another alien race, only the 2nd species they have encountered, and this time, they are worried about the consequences. Will it lead to another war like last time? Do they just come out fighting to avoid this? Or do they offer the hand of friendship first like last time and hope for a better result? (The first time was death for the emissaries that were sent to greet the Merkiarri).
So, without giving away spoilers for the story, this book gives us an insight into the Vipers through the eyes of Erik Penleigh, a veteran Viper on a mission to quell a rebellion. Cooper uses this opportunity to also give us a bit of background on the rest of the Human Universe, the state of affairs, the last 200yrs etc, bring us up to speed. It is a very clever bit of writing. He then jumps to Captain Jeff Colgin, who is currently Captaining a survey vessel that has discovered the Shan. Again, without giving it all away, this is where the story really captured me, and I knew that I was hooked, as Colgin and his crew studied this evolved, highly intelligent Feline species, the Shan. The Author gives us several main characters amongst both the Human and the Shan to get attached to and involved with, and they are exceptionally well written, in-depth, believable, some you want to meet, some you dislike, some you know you would just love. The Shan are an incredible species – Cooper does a remarkable job of defining them – again, I don’t want to spoil it.
On the other side of this are the Merki – the Boogie Man, the thing that goes bump in the night, mainly because it's reaching over and ripping your arm off so it can eat it before killing you. These Aliens are a force of nature, killing everything in their path, laying waste to worlds and threatening the extermination of all. Again, Cooper does a wonderful job of eliciting fear in everybody (except the Vipers, who are too busy causing fear to feel it) from past history.
This is a brilliant story, and is going to be an absolutely outstanding series. The only problem I see is that there is an end to each book, and you have to wait for the next one!
Most recent customer reviews
Sparked my interest to continue the series.
Characters are interesting and believable.