scifantasy: Me. With an owl. (Default)
scifantasy ([personal profile] scifantasy) wrote on January 11th, 2012 at 06:49 pm
Complete Book-Up, or "This Tastes Terrible! Try It!"
I'm pretty sure I've just read the second-worst story David Weber has ever written.

It's called "Out of the Dark," it's a novella-length contribution to George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Warriors anthology from a few years ago, and consists entirely of 4.5 tropes I don't like.

There are spoilers behind the cut, but since I'm actively telling you not to read it, I imagine nobody cares...

It's an alien invasion story set on modern-day Earth.

Neither of those is a problem, that's just a setup.

Number one is that the alien fleet arrives in Sol system and runs headlong into Humans Are Special. It turns out that humanity blew the bell curve technologically, developing from roughly the Middle Ages to the modern day several times faster than any other civilization in history. The aliens are shocked, but (now in violation of what amounts to the Prime Directive) decide this makes humans a perfect subject species as long as the Citadel Hegemony Council doesn't find out. So, kinetic strikes ahoy!

...Which is when the aliens learn that humans have a unique psychology, in that (Footfall style) we don't surrender. We just keep fighting. See, all the other species are either herbivores, who think in terms of the herd, or carnivores, who are packs, or the occasional omnivore which is usually one or the other, but we're a herd of packs--read, families. We don't think collectively enough to surrender. The aliens only realize this (so, they only decided to bother to understand us) after several months of guerilla fighting, of course.

Number two? The main human character is a USMC noncom serving in Afghanistan. So when he forms a guerilla force, the parallels are obvious, and yet still spelled out, and frustrating. It's like Battlestar Galactica, only done poorly. (And with an even worse ending, but we'll get there.)

Three is the detailed mid-fight infodumps of how each weapon works. I know, complaining about David Weber infodumping is shooting bluefin tuna in a wooden barrel with standard-issue American M16 assault rifles firing 5.56x45mm NATO standard ammunition at a muzzle velocity of 3,100 feet per second at a rate of 12 rounds per minute sustained (thanks to Schlock Mercenary for that joke), but somehow it's even more annoying when it discusses tank rounds than when it's missiles in space.

The half is the Deus Ex Machina. Humanity makes a good effort, but in the end, they still have to have a new and completely unestablished solution kick the aliens out.

The reason the DEM is a half is that the full point here, to bring it from 3.5 to 4.5, goes to what the DEM is:

Vampires.

Yep. In the last section, it turns out that a character who's been around for most of the book is Vlad Dracula himself, who finally decides to turn a few of the soldiers he's been with, and they use their magical vampire powers to not only wipe out the rest of the ground forces, but hitch a ride on the outside of the landing shuttles and take out the overall commander. Then they threaten to start taking the fight back...and scene.

What. The. Fuck.

Now, of course, after all that, how can I say it's only the second-worst story Weber's written?

Because he expanded it into a full novel! No link for my own sanity, but apparently many people agree, as the Amazon ratings are chock full of "what is this crap?" It's all the same--complete with the vampire reveal showing up pretty much out of the blue (and bonus, it was apparently spoiled in the cover flap) in the final chapter. All it has is even more fighting (guerilla F-22 attacks?), and a new sideplot of some other guy somewhere else doing something.

Now, some of this is perhaps not atypical for Weber, but normally he at least keeps the characters interesting. Not here. At least, not the humans. When I'm more interested in reading scenes from the perspective of the invading aliens than the humans, in a "humanity is invaded but fights back and wins" story, something is quite wrong here.
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