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The Far Side of the Stars
David Drake
Baen Books, 436 pages

The Far Side of the Stars
David Drake
David Drake is the author of Igniting the Reaches and Through the Breach (1995), The Dragon Lord (1979) and To Bring the Light (1996) as well as the North-World series. Best known for his science fiction classic, Hammer's Slammers, Drake is a veteran of the only independent armored regiment assigned to Vietnam. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

David Drake Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Mistress of the Catacombs
SF Site Review: With The Lightnings
SF Site Review: With the Lightnings
SF Site Review: Queen of Demons
SF Site Review: Patriots
SF Site Review: Lord of the Isles
David Drake Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

The Far Side of the Stars is the third in David Drake's RCN series, light space opera books starring Lt. Daniel Leary, a young starship captain in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy, and his faithful and deadly Signal Officer Adele Mundy. I liked With the Lightnings, the first book of this series, a lot, but didn't much care for Lt. Leary, Commanding, the darker sequel. This one's an improvement, I thought, but still....

The RCN series is Drake's SF tribute to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin Master & Commander series -- itself a knockoff of Forester's Hornblower stories1. The sfnalization of Jack Aubrey's Royal Navy is a bit too literal for my taste -- Drake has starships with actual sails, complete with sailors in the rigging, and warships exchanging broadsides of solid-shot missiles. Granted, these are Casimir-effect sails, and anti-matter-powered missiles that have a top speed of 0.6c, but still....

Leary and Mundy (the fighting librarian!) were a fresh, fun combination in With the Lightnings. In this book, they, and their supporting cast, seem a little shopworn. One of the pleasures of a good series is watching the characters and background develop and grow richer from book to book. So far, Leary, Mundy and their universe seem pretty static -- and I'm starting to think that they aren't really very likeable, or very interesting, people. The plot is episodic, which is fine, but, you know, we've seen this stuff before.... And the auctorial pushing, shoving and hammering-to-fit are distressingly obvious.

Hmm. I see I haven't said much about what actually happens in the book. And I don't think I will, actually: you can get a plot summary from the Usual Sources, but I don't think it's really going to help you decide whether to read the book. Anyway, if you're new to the series, you need to start with the first one. And stop there, would be my advice.

Bottom line: The Far Side of the Stars is decent commercial fiction and a not-unpleasant way to spend a few hours. Fans of Leary & Mundy will want to check it out2. But Drake has done better. And I believe I'll let someone else take the lead in trying out the next RCN Leary/Mundy book.

Baen's cover art comes in for (often well-deserved) brickbats, and this is a prime example. The man in the heavily-armored spacesuit (click on cover to enlarge), who appears to be riding a souped-up Space Ski-Doo -- and the four different typefaces in the title, all contribute to, well, an unusual cover. Eye-catching, to be sure. It definitely doesn't match my mental picture of The Far Side of the Stars...

The Far Side of the Stars comes with a bonus: a really neat CD, which includes the complete texts for 26(!) of Drake's books, including an audio version of The Far Side of the Stars and other cool stuff. This is a new Baen marketing idea, and a good one.

1 The O'Brian books are popular with a lot of SF fans (including me). And everyone should try at least one Hornblower....

2 One hazard the book reviewer faces is that critical reading of light, commercial fiction may spoil the fun for the reviewer. For this one, I was truly in the mood for a light, escapist read, and read it pretty much like I'd read any such book. It just didn't quite do the job for me, and I'm adding this note to make sure you know that I like Drake, and I like this kind of book, and I think I gave it a fair shake. And it's not a bad book -- just a little disappointing. Your mileage may vary.

Copyright © 2004 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at .

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