01/10/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
The Unincorporated War by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin. pub: TOR/Forge. 462 page hardback. Price: $25.99 (US), $31.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1900-5).
check out website: www.tor-forge.com
Like some of my reviewer colleagues, I really do wish publishers would enforce their writers to do a recap synopsis to remind readers what happened in the previous books. It isn’t like readers sit around twiddling their thumbs between books. So many books, only one life-time, don’t forget.
To be fair to the Kollin brothers, they do fill you in what happened previously within the opening chapter on pages 10 and 26 but the odd thing is you can really read this book, ‘The Unincorporated War’, as a standalone without really having to read the first book. ‘The Unincorporated Man’, to get what is going on because the protagonist, Justin Cord, has been relocated to outer space and the essence of the first book is more or less forgotten.
A quick recap is that this reality is built up on the premise that everyone on Earth owns a share of everyone else’s value. Sinclair is unique in that being brought out of extended hibernation and restored to health finds he isn’t owned by anyone and is determined to be non-conformist enough not to be owned by this society. He becomes a leader for others who want to be that way, especially the spacers out in the solar system,
Must of the opening of this story is seen from J.D. ‘Janet’ Black’s perspective as she gets an in-battle promotion from engineer to captain where her spacecraft is attacked and then proceeds to win the battle and smacks the Earth forces royally when they approach Ceres. Things aren’t helped when Cord’s wife, Neela is kidnapped and returned to Earth. Rather than audit her in a form of brainwashing, new Chairman Hektor Sambianco decides to try his form of kindness making her a ‘house guest’ but still a prisoner and subtly changes her.
Things then proceed across a variety or character perspectives so that by the time you get caught up on who they are, you’re moved on again. It would have been helpful had these people been more substantial.
There is a lot of emphasis of how military leaders can develop out of people who are largely inept. The Kollins do show how these also need the backing of the political leaders at home because such stars can also drop as well. If I have to be critical of this is that far too much of this happens off page when dramatically, it should have been there.
An interesting turn of events and different perceptions is that Neela Cord helps to revive the recently dead in the enemy camp. She also sees their most prominent military leader up for court-martial as being capable of ending the war. Neela is also playing a double-game of staying close to the President. Meanwhile, the war progresses with both sides having victories and losses and the Alliance realising that the winner might be the one who doesn’t run out of money.
A lot of this story explores the politics of the situation from both sides as to why they have to win. Where it tends to neglect is giving details of events second-hand than actually seeing them. Although this could be perceived as limiting the number of characters perspectives I tend to feel the wrong characters are chose, it causes a gap of information in such cases as borrowing Cord’s spacecraft and not seeing it commit to a rescue. If the event is so important then it shouldn’t have been side-stepped. It’s the equivalent of finding out what happened by reading the newspapers when it should be in your face in the novel. Continually side-stepping and explaining what happened is not telling a story.
I tend to have problems with space battles done in real time. They look good in an SF film or TV episode but the reality is things move far too slowly in space where fuel consumption is more of a problem than any kind of battle. This reality might be a couple centuries into the future but nothing has really been shown to show the practicability of doing this let alone remember space is three-dimensional and if there is a mined area of space then why not simply go around it, especially if fuel use isn’t a problem. Writers all too often think of space like a sea when the rules are far different and I’ve yet to see anyone do it well.
The Kollin brothers describe the terraforming of Mars well but don’t address the problem its colder temperature being more distance from our local star. Much of the things related to being incorporated from the first book also seem to be ignored. Would a war developing you would have thought people who wouldn’t want one have bought out those who would.
As there’s at least another volume in this book series, I would hesitate not to see what happens next. This one tends to pull in far too many directions and nothing seems to be linking together so resolutions are not too clear. If anything, it’s a shame that the Kollin brothers moved so far from the problems of owning shares in other people to a space opera space war where ownership rights tended to be ignored.
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