Starbound – Dave Bara

Starbound

Summary

In this second volume of the Lightship Chronicles, Commander/Prince Peter Cochrane, serving in the Union space fleet with his lover, repeatedly faces dangerous situations and difficult moral, political, and personal decisions.

Review

It's always hard to come into a series partway through, but Dave Bara does a nice job of setting the scene, and deftly giving us enough backstory to follow what's going on without trouble. The problem, unfortunately, is that I didn't have any great interest in what was happening.

The book starts well, with a mysterious artifact, and the introduction of the enigmatic, powerful Historians. In fact, the Historians, presumably well established in the first book of the series, were by far the most interesting part of the book. Unfortunately, it's not about them. What it is about is the personal life of Peter Cochrane, the spacefaring soldier who's also the scion of a powerful political family. Much of the book is about him flipping back and forth between these roles. I use the term flipping advisedly, since his constant flip-flops make very little sense, and show even less consistency. While Bara clearly wants the story to be about Cochrane growing up and learning to take on the burden of his position despite his preferences, what he offers instead is a by-the-numbers story that is predictable at every step, and neither offers nor engenders much enthusiasm. I quickly tired of Cochrane and other men chivalrously taking care of their (carefully depicted as equally competent) women.

This is a military novel, but neither strategy nor tactics made much sense to me. We're told there's a firm command structure, but everyone's orders are constantly being questioned. Cochrane himself is given very strict instructions, but, even when acting as a soldier, seems to treat them as interesting suggestions. He, of course, is easily irritated when his own orders aren't followed. The book ends in a manufactured (and not very logical) cliffhanger plus political wrapup. Nowhere in evidence are the war crimes charges that seem called for. I can't recommend this.

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