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Out Of The Dark by David Webber

1/12/2010. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Out Of The Dark audio book in the USA - or Buy Out Of The Dark audio book in the UK

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Out Of The Dark audio book by David Webber. pub: Macmillan Audio. 18 hours, 13 CDs. Price: $49.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4272-1061-6) . read by Charles Keating.

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Many people out there will be familiar with David Weber's ‘Safehold’ series which included the titles ‘Off Armageddon Reef’ and ‘By Schism Rent Asunder’ which had an 18th-century nautical theme set on another planet. Well, this new title ‘Out Of The Dark’ is something of a new venture. Strikingly relevant and exciting, it is completely different from Safehold and, judging by this first offering, it will be a great success.

Let me start off by saying that this is an excellent book! The audio book on CD which is reviewed here is even better. I thought it was thoroughly entertaining, rewarding, absorbing and thrilling! Okay, I think that's sufficient accolades to give you an idea of my opinion and, additionally, I can also say that I found nothing wrong with the book, a rarity from someone such as myself. I'm now going to tell you how I formed such an opinion.

The setting of the story is beautifully contrived. Out there in the galaxy there is an empire called The Hegemony, a very powerful and manipulative organisation of generally peaceful aliens content on keeping the status quo. They are herbivorous and not overly aggressive. Amongst their ranks are the carnivorous hunters, dog-like creatures called the Shongarii, a bit troublesome in behaviour and a possible threat to future stability. What would be done about them? Reminds me a bit of Byzantium and the Huns.

A previous survey of the planet Earth witnessed King Henry V winning the Battle of Agincourt. This astounded the Hegemony by the very vicious and audacious nature of the event to the extent that they began to worry about humans and their possible threat to the future. Six hundred years after the battle, they directed the Shongarii to neutralise Earth knowing that the latter would probably have a reasonable fight on their hands which would keep them occupied and out of trouble from the rest of the empire. What they didn't expect was the rapid advance of technology on Earth which would make the battle not so one-sided.

The initial onslaught was terrible and half of the population was wiped out. Thinking themselves victorious, the Shongarii occupied the planet only to find themselves engaged in a Vietnam style war. This is the basis to the story which is told from a multitude of perspectives including an American soldier, Buchevsky, and an American marine by the name of Dvorak. However, Weber also includes alien characters and he's an expert at alien psychology, getting into the minds and motives of all the protagonists.

He is also an expert on all forms of warfare. You are left in no doubt as to what happens in military engagements with more than adequate explanations of all the hardware involved. There are many battles in this novel, a war fought to the death.

Charles Keating is the narrator. Coming from the other side of the Atlantic from Macmillan's headquarters I found it a pleasant surprise to listen to a British accent from a British actor. A polished style and very well narrated, this audio book stands out on its own.

There is also a massive twist to the plot. Vampires are introduced! It seems to be the case that in the Balkans vampires are not happy about the invasion of the Shongarii. They make a truce with the humans and help them to fight off the invaders. While I would like to say a lot more about their introduction, doing so would spoil the enjoyment of the book for others.

There will probably be a sequel and it will be eagerly anticipated. This is something really good from David Weber which I'm sure will eventually be the basis of a TV series. A highly entertaining novel, it's a page-turner from start to finish or, as in this case, a CD swapper. There's been lots of invasion stories since the beginning of Science Fiction but this author puts it in a modern context in a very competent way and I would be hard pushed to find a better story on the market at the moment. Definitely recommended!

Rod MacDonald

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