The Fortress In Orion by Mike Resnick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Democracy is at war with the alien Traanskei Coalition. War hero Colonel Nathan Pretorius has a record of success on dangerous behind-enemy-lines missions, missions that usually leave him in the hospital. Now he's recruited for a near-impossible assignment that may well leave him dead.
At the cost of many lives, the Democracy has managed to clone and train General Michkag, one of the Traanskei's master strategists. Colonel Pretorius and a hand-picked team must kidnap the real Michkag if they can, assassinate him if they can't, but no matter which, put the clone in his place, where he will misdirect the enemy's forces and funnel vital information to the Democracy. Against the odds, Pretorius, along with Cyborg Felix Ortega, computer expert Toni Levi, convict and contortionist Sally "Snake" Kowalski, the near-human empath Marlowe, the alien Gzychurlyx, and Madam Methuselah - the Dead Enders - must infiltrate the Fortress in Orion, accomplish their mission, and escape with their lives.
The very second that I learned of this new book (which is the first of a series) set within Resnick's fantastic Birthright universe, I went straight over to my preferred ebook provider and purchased it. I'm a big fan of Resnick's and I haven't read anything by him that I've not enjoyed, some more than others, but generally I rate his work very highly. However, I admit to being a bit disappointed with this one. In a nutshell, the whole book felt like it was a young adult novel with a few choice profanities thrown in to make it seem a little more "grown up". Not at all what I expect from Mike Resnick. It's fast-paced storytelling and quite engaging with an almost pulp-style feel, but still it lacks any real substance. Anyway, here's a quick rundown of the book and a few things that I did like.
Our main man, Colonel Pestorius, recovering from injuries collected during his previous assignment, is tasked by his commanding officer to assemble a team to carry out a daring mission. This mission requires them to sneak up on the Democracy's alien enemy at a location some light years away across the galaxy and to carry out a somewhat tricky task. Pestorius assembles a small and eclectic group of misfits, all with a specific talent or skill necessary for the mission and gives them a rundown on the basic plan. They then set off across the galaxy, hashing out the details of the mission as they go.
The characters are fun and moderately interesting and I enjoyed their banter for the most part, even if the dialogue was a little "adolescent" much of the time.
The story ambles along at an okay pace throughout the middle fifty percent or so of the book, and we learn little bits and pieces about the characters, nothing too deep, just snippets of their pasts. We also drop in on some different planets across the Galaxy along the way, and see a few interesting species as well, which was another thing that I enjoyed.
The last few chapters is where the whole plot comes together, and comes to an okay conclusion, but just okay, because there's no real guts to it. By that I mean that there isn't a twist of any description or even a big surprise, the whole thing just ends without much fuss, albeit dropping hint or two to set up for the next book in the series.
If you need a simple-to-read, action-packed and mildly humorous novel with a straight forward plot that doesn't require much effort, then this is a good choice, but I don't think you'll find much to get hugely excited about.
I think that I probably will read the next book when it's released, to give it another chance. Hopefully Resnick, who I still rate as one of the best storytellers ever, will deliver us something with a bit more grit next time.
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