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Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Book Review — A Hymn Before Battle, by John Ringo

Filed under: Reading — Tags: , , , — mikewb1971 @ 12:50 AM (00:50)

A Hymn Before Battle, by John Ringo

A Hymn Before Battle is the first book in the Legacy of the Aldenata series by John Ringo.

It starts as the President of the United States is contacted by the Galactic Federation for military assistance from Earth. The reason that the assembled species of the Federation need to ask us lowly Earthlings for assistance is that they are facing an invasion from the Posleen, another species that invades en masse, then uses the indigenous people for food.

The troops from Earth are at a disadvantage in that the Posleen forces number in the billions, and they attack in hordes similar to a human-wave attack – you can shoot a thousand of them, but they’re followed by another ten thousand – eventually they’re going to wear you down, especially if you have to fight them on open ground.

The Earth troops have the advantage of being smarter and sneakier than the Posleen – the average Posleen is at the same intelligence level as a chimpanzee, and they’re organized into units of about 400, commanded by a “God King,” who flies above the battlefield in a flying-saucer-type craft – take out the God King, and the rest go feral. Still, the Posleen advance in by the thousands, so there’s multiple God Kings on any given “mission,” and the saucer craft they use are equipped with high-power lasers, missiles, sensors, etc.

So a good bit of Earth’s troops are sent off to stop Posleen hordes on several worlds. While those troops are doing their thing off-world, the Posleen are preparing to attack Earth with a force totaling about a billion when they’ve all landed, so the world’s leaders are preparing to defend the planet.

Ringo spins an easy read, though his technical descriptions of the equipment and the attendant physics can get a bit stale. He spends a good bit of time on the behind-the-scenes stuff involved in military affairs – the politicking, bureaucratic snafus, idiots in uniform using their rank, etc. Ringo reports in the afternotes that he got the inspiration for this series back in 1985, while on guard duty with the 82nd Airborne in the Sinai – all of the alien-invasion novels then available weren’t good enough for him.

One thing that could come back and bite Ringo on the ass are his characterization of the Darhel, the species that functions as the Federation’s lawyers and bankers. Ringo has them at the center of some sort of conspiracy, or what looks like one, to make sure that humanity doesn’t do too good a job in fighting off the Posleen. Some might think that the Darhel are a stereotype of Jews, kind of like the Ferengi in Star Trek.

One curious aspect of A Hymn Before Battle is that all of the alien species (Darhel, Posleen, Indowy, etc.) refer to the Aldenata as sort of deified entities in one way or another.


NOTES

  1. Approximate reading level – 15.3

Copyright © 2007 Mike Blessing. All rights reserved.
Produced by KCUF Media, a division of Extropy Enterprises.
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