Review: The Road of Danger, by David Drake

 

The Road of Danger, 9th entry into David Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy series, delivers a solid military science fiction read:

  • Visceral and realistic combat
  • An authentic look at military life
  • Decent scientific grounding
  • Thrilling espionage
  • Backwater planets getting blown to hell

with just one flaw.  Nothing has really changed for Captain Leary or his signals officer and master spy Adele Mundy in this book or the previous 7, so while I am disappointed someone who has never read the series should be able to pick up The Road of Danger without issue and enjoy it.

Road of Danger is a military space opera, set in a time of tenuous peace between The Republic of Cinnabar, and oligarchic republic, and the Alliance, an overpopulated totalitarian state, with the majority of inhabited human space split between them.  Captain Leary is dispatched along with his ship the Princess Cecile to catch a rebel who the Alliance claims is a Cinnabar citizen.  He dutifully sets off into a set of fringe worlds riddled with corruption and smuggling tied to the rebellion.

Drake’s time in Vietnam is a clear influence in the novel, expressed in colony worlds blanketed with rice patties, ruled by corrupt and incompetent locals, and the incompetent superiors Leary is saddled with.  The crew of the Princess Cecile rises to its mission, cutting through red tape and human beings with satisfying ease; action and character interaction are well written, and the plot has plenty of twists and turns from conspiracies and local interference.

All of these things are what make the Hammer’s Slammers series, also by Drake, a great read- the issue here is that in the Slammers we never stay with one character for long, and get to know new ones with each story.  For some reason Drake isn’t doing the same here-any character development is largely a rehashing of things established in the first book. He hasn’t been shy about killing important characters in his other works; maybe he’s trying to strike a more hopeful tone for his space opera.  Perhaps he likes writing these characters and relationships as they are, but the result is that all the major characters are in equilibrium, which I think hurts the book a great deal.  We are robbed of the excitement of getting to know new characters, and of any interesting wrinkles in the relationships Drake writes well.  Maybe I just don’t get it.

TL, DR:  Buy it at a decent price if you like pulpy military sci-fi.

Credit for picture:  Amazon.com

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Road of Danger, by David Drake”

  1. From what I understand, the Cinnabar series is something of a response to David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. While Weber modeled Harrington after Horatio Nelson (much like the Horatio Hornblower series), Drake aimed for something like Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey series: more gritty and with more fallible characters.

    I think the difference is interesting, particularly because it is a far less idealistic take on war and combat. That said, I agree that I enjoyed some of Drake’s stand-alone novels better, particularly the Redliners. I think Drake does fantastic multi-character arcs in short fiction and single novels.

    1. Since writing this review I’ve gone and read a big chunk of the Honor Harrington series, as well as Redliners, and everything you said here is spot on.

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