We’ve become so used to complex modern space opera immersing us in multi-threaded tales spanning galaxies, super intelligent FTL ships, incomprehensible physics, post-human oddness and unpronounceable names that this seemingly simple story set during humanity’s tentative early footsteps into space is a real breath of fresh air. With only two main characters and a nice linear timeline it tells the tale of a conflict that threatens to overwhelm mankind’s fragile expansion into the solar system. As you’d expect with so few dramatis personae, there is plenty of opportunity for character development so that it’s easy to empathise with Miller and Holden’s differing personalities and while developing character depth could easily deaden the pace, nothing is further from the truth. The non-stop action, plot twists and easy, fluid style makes for an engrossing read and the visualisation & atmosphere are superb with Miller’s narrative bringing a lovely noir feel with a smattering of Sam Vimes world-weary humour.
It’s interesting to note that the author is actually a collaboration in the tradition of Niven & Pournelle and indeed the whole tale is almost an homage to earlier classics with some nice little bits of reverential hat-tipping but with a fresh, modern feel. I particularly liked the choice of name for Holden’s acquired ship, a fitting tribute to Rush’s ‘Sygnus X1’. I’m already part way through Caliban’s War and, yes, it is also very, very good – the plots thicken and the conspiracies deepen.