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War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Peter Grant (you know him as Bayou Renaissance Man) has drawn on his own combat experience to create this story in the same universe as his first three novels (The Maxwell Saga: Take The Star Road, Ride The Rising Tide, and Adapt and Overcome).
War to the Knife starts out like an episode of Firefly, a familiar-enough setting: small frontier town, rough-and-rugged individuals, on an occupied planet. There are veterans of a recent war, occupying forces, and enough injustice to start the war back up again.
Soon the scope widens as we meet more people, and the reader comes to realize that it's a planet-wide scenario - and the veterans are the backbone of the Resistance.
But there's a problem: the occupying force has nearly exterminated the people of this planet, to take their natural resources. The remnant of survivors in this battle for survival are outnumbered, and out-gunned, and nearly out of options. They decide to fight back with everything they have in one final, decisive battle, knowing that many of them will not survive.
The characters are real, the action fast-paced, and the plot compelling. The phrase "page turner" gets over-used, but you can trust me on this: you won't want to put it down until you find out what comes next.
The Laredo Resistance is the plucky underdog fighting the much larger Bactrian empire. Luckily, the Bactrians are overconfident, rely on technology more than training, and are rather corrupt. Some of them are making money selling their own military gear to the resistance fighters. How dumb can you get, huh?
We are given a few sympathetic Bactrian characters to give the bad guys some depth.
I liked the characters. Even though they have to be ruthless to survive I never got the idea that they were enjoying it, and the author gave them realistic psychological issues in some cases. Although I did think they got off a bit more easily than they should have. If this had been a David Drake novel half of them would be sociopathic murderers and the other half ready to commit suicide. :-)
This is definitely a war novel with the science fiction there mostly for interesting background.
Despite the fairly obvious plot arc, the author maintains reader interest by keeping the reader guessing about the fate of the characters. Unlike the Maxwell books, the reader doesn't know who is going to succeed and who is going to die.
Grant writes simple prose, relying mostly on dialog instead of inner narration, exposition, or description. The risks of this approach are that the author can fail to hook the reader, because it is harder to sympathize with characters when one doesn't know deeply, and that the dialog can become stilted, because the characters have to explain numerous things that would be elided in normal conversation.
The benefit, however, is that he packs interesting situations, and well-written action sequences, into a compact space. It works because the book is all about the situations, and the characters' actions and reactions to those situations. The measure of Grant's success is that the reader DOES care about the characters, even while being swept along by events. The dialog can be slightly ponderous at times, but not to an objectionable extent.
I eagerly await the next installment in this series.
The amazon review form asks about sexual content, and an earlier book by this author had some romance in it, but it seemed contrived and forced. The growth of the intimate, adult relationships during a difficult war was well done in this book and added to the character personality developed during the story. There was for me an understanding about sharing an intimate relationship, and not just a bunch of hydraulics.
Overall the story was well written.