Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Guys Read Good Books

Another Kilimanjaro book review of an excellent trilogy.

Igniting the Reaches, Through the Breach, & Fireships by David Drake

While each of these books is complete on their own, together they form a trilogy. The narrative is tight and the action handled with the proficiency readers have come to expect from the author. These books come with an added treat for the reader: character development.

Drake’s writing is typically plot rather than character driven. His characters develop in relation to their external circumstances, typically warfare, rather than in relation to any internal struggles. Already proficient at portraying the effects of combat on the psyche, the longer structure available to him across this trilogy allows him to also explore the combatant’s reactions to himself and to what he has to become to survive. Each book lets the reader see the central characters from differing perspectives and across the span of several years. For a long time fan of Drake’s work, this added dimension adds a sobering level of depth to the books.

Not to say that these books are heavy with introspection and angst, quiet the opposite, the books move with a surprisingly brisk pace. The scope is epic. Though science fiction, this trilogy was inspired by the life and times of Sir Francis Drake. The themes of pirateering and empire play heavily on the overarching plot. The descriptions have a decidedly nautical feeling and the books favor their attention on the men rather than the machines. In each book, Drake includes a brief explanation of his inspirations for the books and a peak into the ‘story behind the story’. Drake’s final notes, at the end of the third book, when the author discusses how the theme of personal costs ‘grew’ throughout the writing of the trilogy. For some readers, two paragraphs from the author himself, coming on the heels of the work, will be as moving as the books themselves.

Combining technical precision in the narrative with historical perspective and true depth of theme, these three books comprise a rare treat for Drake’s readers.

Related Reading:
David Drake, any and all, esp. Hammers Slammers
The Principall Navigations of the English Nation, the 1958 edition, edited by Richard Hakluyt: Hakluyt’s Voyages (This was Drake’s primary source of inspiration and information. It is an eight volume set, difficult to acquire, and dense reading. It is also an amazing and exhaustive historic record.)
C. S. Forester, any and all, esp. the Horatio Hornblower series
David Weber’s Honor Harrington series

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