1/10/2011. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
pub: Macmillan Audio. 22 CDs 28 hours 30 min. Price: $74.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4272-1239-9). narrator: Charles Keating.
check out websites: http://us.macmillan.com/Book.aspx?isbn=9781427212399and www.davidweber.net
The ‘Safehold’ series continues on its way with another massive novel, ‘How Firm A Foundation’ from David Weber. If you would like to know more about this interesting American author have a look at his website: www.davidweber.net which will give you a lot more information about the man and his books.
There are few more prolific authors than this guy. He is able to produce very large novels at a pace which doesn't diminish as the years go by. In fact, the quality of his writing just seems to get better the more he writes. He's very good at writing about the technicalities of war, especially sea battles equivalent to the 17th century on Earth. That on its own doesn't make a great novel, it would merely make it an inventory of weapons which would become tedious and boring without anything of substance. Weber, in addition to his other abilities, is able to shift his mind into the characters and make them come alive. There are a multitude of characters in this series, good and bad, evil and ugly, serene and godly and yet he's still able to give each one its own unique identity.
Charles Keating is responsible for the narration of this book. He has been associated with this author before so he knows how he writes and understands the way it should be delivered to an audience. I think he comprehends the importance of character identity and, in the reading of the text, we don't get lost in a multitude of names and faces we can't recognise. Narrating this huge novel was a mammoth task but he has succeeded admirably.
In many respects, this novel is like a rock pool. Lots of things are going on with creatures fighting each other, trying to survive in a mini-world hopelessly ignorant of all that lies beyond. They've forgotten about the sea which will swamp them all at any time. This planet, Safehold, contains the remnants of humanity. After aliens, the Gbaba, brutally wiped out humans from the galaxy, a small number remained to start again on a new planet. In order to remain hidden from aliens, technology was forbidden and a new religion was set in place to keep everyone down. This series is set about one thousand years after this event. The only link to the past is Merlin, an android who sometimes dabbles in the affairs of mankind, helping them to improve and keeping them on the right track.
The events that took place during the time of the Reformation were often bloody and brutal. On Earth, the situation lasted for a couple of centuries. One has only to think of the Huguenots and the massacre that to place in Paris. There was also the Inquisition! How many people were burnt at the stake for religious belief? It was indeed a terrible time in our history and David Weber has come back to this era with this series of books, only he has set it on another planet far away in the galaxy. Aptly named after the religious hymn, ‘How Firm A Foundation’ is a continuing story of a religious war with battles taking place at sea and on land and in the hearts and minds of men and women.
The main protagonists in this story are the breakaway Empire with Cayleb and Sharleyan against the order represented by the corrupt Church of God Awaiting. This conflict has been going on for some time, commencing with the initial insurrection in the first novel and continuing now in this fifth novel with devastating effect. Suicide bombers and assassins from the old order try to do damage but aided by technologies given by Merlin they are able to mount a challenge. Be prepared for nasty executions and torture. This is just like the Inquisition and some of it is not for the fainthearted.
Many people are wondering when the aliens will make a comeback, thus transforming the story back to Science Fiction rather than alternative history. This probably will not happen for some time because the story has got a long way to run, possibly another six novels at least. Maybe we should forget the aliens which were basically a vehicle to set up the story. They are not really important to the plot running at the moment. For all we know, the same thing could have happened to us and aliens are waiting out there to say hello when we venture into space. While we are struggling with collapsing economies, terrorists and environment change, in a rock pool at the seaside, maybe a whole universe out there is waiting to devour us, making our petty squabbles supremely insignificant!
David Weber tells a good story. He is an expert in his craft. Charles Keating narrates a good story. He is also an expert in his craft. Put together, they make a very good audio book. It's a bit expensive but you get a lot for your money and if you have already purchased the previous four audio books then undoubtedly you will want to purchase this one. In difficult economic times, the expense of almost $75 could put people off. Choosing between food and electricity and this book, I would go for the former but if you've got plenty of money to chuck around, why not opt for this?
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