Thursday, April 12, 2012

Games of Command

Well, folks, it's what you've all been waiting for (knowingly or not): Space Opera Week! So all aboard the United Galactic Allied Confederation Coalition Conclave Empire starship I.R. Vwxyz*, as we head out to distant quadrants of space where the population of telepathic space-cats exceeds that of all other demographics combined.

In all ways, Linnea Sinclair's Games of Command is a worthy kick-off to Space Opera Week**. Every trope we've come to expect and love is present: two vaguely differentiated space-governments (in this case, one United Confederation and one Empire) who have, after long years of war, formed an uneasy Alliance against an ill-defined third group with lots of vowels in their name; telepaths; telepathic space-cats who aren't called cats, yet look and behave, except for the telepathy, precisely like cats; a kick-ass fleet officer heroine with a shady past; and things that explode. Anyone who's read David Weber's Honor Harrington series will no doubt feel themselves on familiar ground.

Games of Command has a couple of things going for it that Weber's series does not, however. First off, it's not a series. I know, I know, when you like a book, it's great when there are more of them. But I draw the line (usually) at three or four, and Weber - like Robert Jordan, or George R.R. Martin***, or so many other sci-fi/fantasy authors - just doesn't know when to stop. Once no one can remember which of your many books they're reading, because final battles really do tend to all blur together after a while, thanks, that's time. Games of Command is a stand-alone.

Next, the romance is better. That's to be expected, since I'm pretty sure purists would classify the HH books as military sci-fi and G of C as sci-fi/romance, but come on, Weber. Dude. The wife in a wheelchair giving her saintly blessing?**** That was where I not only got off the Harrington space-train, but flung myself headlong out of the airlock into melodrama-free hard vacuum.

So, sorry for that digression. The romance is better. I'm a sucker for the unrequited love story, either because it builds good narrative tension from the get-go, because I'm incredibly sick of love-at-first-sight in romances, or because miserable characters are more fun to read about than happy ones, take your pick. The secondary love story is unfortunately more of the, "Oh hai, we've known each other for five minutes, but we have a deep spiritual connection, obviously, so let's bang" variety, but I can forgive that for the strong primary plot.

That primary story follows Tasha Sebastian, the aforementioned kick-ass fleet captain heroine babe, and Admiral Kel-Paten, a biocybernetic badass who's programmed to be incapable of emotion (and yes, we all can predict how that works out - space-love conquers all computer programming; it's an immutable law). They were on opposite sides during the war; come the Alliance of the United Confederation and the Empire, they're together on the admiral's flagship when evil psi-aliens ally with some other evil guys to do evil stuff. Stuff blows up, telepathic space-cats do cute and useful stuff, and other stuff happens, and then there's some pretty good sex in there somewhere.

That's really all the synopsis needed. If you like relatively generic space opera that's written very competently and provides the requisite couple of hours of escapist entertainment, then this one is right up your space-alley. (That came out sounding a little more suggestive than I intended.) Three stars within the space opera genre.

* Please rearrange in whatever order pleases you, and season to taste with vowels and/or apostrophes.

** Which will realistically be more like three or four posts over the next month. I know myself.

*** Post coming soon.

**** Sorry for the spoilers, anyone who hasn't read the HH books and wants to, but honestly - if you start from the beginning, by the time you get to the point in the series I'm referencing you will remember neither what I'm talking about nor, I expect, anything else. You will be spending too much mental energy trying desperately to remember what happened in the last twelve books, so that you can pretend you still know or care what's happening in the one in your hand.

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