Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Hymn before Battle by John Ringo

Humanity is not alone in the Galaxy, which many people consider good news. Unfortunately for Humanity that is the old good news to come from first contact.

The bad news is that a nasty alien species around who are over running planet after planet, who have a thing for gold and they treat any alien races they come across as walking, talking snacks. The only main galactic power to oppose them is run by accountants who can’t kill anything without going into a zombie like state and has a small worker like race who can build almost anything but can’t fight at all. So what this galactic power needs is a new race well versed in the art of war and has the anger, ability and stubbornness to take on these new bad guys and where could they possibly find a race like that hmmm?

A Hymn before Battle is the first book I’ve read by John Ringo and it’s great. He comes up with a very entertaining take on the first contact between Aliens and mankind, (they simply call the world leaders on the telephone) and the problem that Humanity faces is a big one. It’s not simply a case that we go and fight these Aliens, we have no choice. The Aliens are coming our way and Earth has only five years to prepare before we’re invaded.The Aliens have the technology but no idea how to use it so it’s up to Mankind to come up with armour, ships and weapons to beat the Aliens back. This is also another entertaining part of the book as the military call in science fiction writers to help in the design process.

Of course as the Aliens are very stingy accountants we’re not getting all this technology for free. In order to raise the funds to buy the technology and weapons for mankind to survive we now have three planets to defend. But as revelations follow it becomes clear that not everything is as clear cut as it first appears and with friends like these who needs enemies.

But then again Earth’s forces are doing quite enough damage to themselves through ignorance, politics and general infighting.

This book is the first in a series so it does end on a very foreboding note. Earth forces may have won the first battles but we certainly haven’t won the war. The Alien technology introduced may be advanced but it’s believable. There is no mega weapon that will be able to win the war and you do get a sense that even if mankind wins the cost will be heavy.

There is also a curious ‘backstep’ in our military forces as the bad guy’s weaponry means no aircraft, aerial or orbital surveillance of any kind. Missiles are also out, leaving Artillery as our only ace in the hole. All the fighting in this war will be up close and personal.

Most of this book focuses on one character and I’m sure that the rest of the series will stay focused on his him, his wife and children to give a view from the army, the navy and the home front as it were.

A few other characters are also introduced which I have the feeling we will also be seeing more of. Especially interesting ( and humorous) are the ‘rejuvenated’ former military characters who in some cases served in the 2nd world war who thanks to Alien technology are now back to their early 20s and having trouble adjusting to being young again.

I’m interested to see where this series will go. There is lots of potential in this series and lots of areas to explore. I hope the author doesn’t blow it.

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