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With the Lightnings
David Drake
Baen Books, 336 pages

With the Lightnings
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.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Patriots
SF Site Review: Lord of the Isles
SF Site Review: Queen of Demons
David Drake Tribute Site
David Drake - Baen Books

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

A more descriptive title might be "The Lieutenant & the Librarian". Lt. Daniel Leary, estranged from his powerful father, is a supernumerary on a diplomatic mission from Cinnabar to Kostroma, a wealthy trading planet caught between two expanding empires, Cinnabar and the Alliance.

Adele Mundy survived the political massacre of her family on Cinnabar. She's the newly-appointed Electoral Librarian in Kostroma's capitol. Drake sets the scene in a leisurely fashion, but once an Alliance-sponsored coup unfolds, the action is fast and furious -- and clever and fun.

The Lieutenant is an interesting fellow -- a promising astrogator, he's also an amateur naturalist and a bit of a lady's man. He dreams of command, and is plunged into it to rescue a detachment of Cinnabar sailors cut off in the coup. He proves to be competent and infectiously optimistic: given lemons, he makes lemonade, lemon cream pie or lemon-drop cookies, as the situation requires. He befriends the Librarian, rescues her when the coup turns ugly, and learns that besides being a computer whiz, she's a crack shot and a cool head. They become an amazingly effective team. No, there's no romance between them -- at least, not yet.

Comparisons to Nick Seafort and Honor Harrington are inevitable; fans of either won't be disappointed. Drake's version of "Hornblower" is more to my taste -- it's not quite so compulsively readable as the Seafort Saga, but more plausible and with much more likeable characters. There's never much doubt of the (general) outcome, but getting there is all the fun. Drake writes in a clean, transparent style that's a joy to read. We haven't seen the last of Daniel and Adele. I'm ready for the next.

Drake is an underrated writer who's beginning to get some recognition outside military SF circles (though not on the award ballots -- his sole major nomination was for the World Fantasy Award -- for a 1975 short story.) His first SF story was published in 1967 (at the ripe old age of 22). This is his 56th (if I counted right) novel, including many collaborations. I've read about 30 of them, with only a couple of clunkers in the lot. He's a polished professional and a helluva storyteller. His reputation and commercial success were made by the Hammer's Slammers mercs-in-space series. These are solid books, but not for the faint of heart -- I can't say that I've ever felt the need to reread them.

My personal favorite-of-the-moment is Starliner (1992 pb, in print), which is a (non-military) space-opera: poor boy makes good as Third Officer of a luxury liner, and has a very eventful first voyage. Well-written, colorful, sexy & fun -- a fine taste of Drake for those who avoid military SF.

Copyright © 1998 by 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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