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The novel is set approximately 400 years in the future, far enough along for mankind to have colonized a substantial number of planets, resulting in the inevitable territorial conflicts on an interstellar scale. The politics are a little murky, providing just enough background for this novel. Hints are given of future concerns in this regard so I imagine we'll see this fleshed out in subsequent novels.
The novel begins with a series of scenes that I personally found a little over the top. Cadet Michael Helfort is stripped of his seniority but allowed to remain in the service of the Federated Worlds Space Fleet instead of being cashiered. Much is made of Michael's potential, although his behavior at the time does not seem to justify it. I am not actually sure what the point of this is, although it does set the stage for future plot lines by introducing a set of homegrown bad seeds that promise to be trouble. Apart from that, I found it did not appreciably add to the story and was almost superfluous. To my mind, the main body of the story starts after this, when Michael is sent out as a Junior Lieutenant on a Deepspace Light Scout.
Their routine mission is interrupted when the Federated Worlds learns that a ship containing invaluable terraforming equipment has been hijacked by The Hammer Worlds, a brutally oppressive and highly fanatical religious government. Michael is thrown into a situation that few Junior Lieutenants on their first cruise have to face, a situation made all the worse when he learns that his mother and sister were on the hijacked ship.
Obviously Michael is destined for great things but for the most part the author avoids the trap of making him seem more than what he is -- an intelligent and determined young man thrown into the crucible of war. The novel advances at a steady pace, allowing Michael to assume more responsibility and come to grips with the reality of the profession he has chosen. This tight control slips towards the end of the novel, veering momentarily into a more predictable, albeit still enjoyable, storyline where Michael is recognized (and then some) for his heroic deeds.
The plot deftly weaves together the desire of the Federated Worlds to avoid a war with The Hammer Worlds and their determination to get their people back. The government of The Hammer Worlds, although stereotypical in many ways, is given a human perspective that makes it more believable. The government of the Federated Worlds is almost too good to be true but, again, we'll probably see the flies in the honey soon enough.
The novel incorporates a fair number of technological advances, from the mechanics of space flight to the intricacies of stealth technology. Perhaps the most interesting concept is the development of AI's for everything from piloting a small personal aircraft to supervising the terraforming of an entire planet. They are all called Mother for some reason and for the most part seem devoid of any personality. It is simultaneously fascinating and a little scary how much reliance is placed on them.
The Battle at the Moons of Hell is a good read. The strong storyline is weakened slightly by the author's constant need to remind us of Michael's potential, as emphasized by the opening scene and some of the scenes towards the end. Still, it is one of the best books I can remember reading recently and I am looking forward to reading future books in this series.
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|Comments on The Battle at the Moons of Hell, by Graham Sharp Paul|
|Posted by Dave on 4/28/2009|
|Still working through it. Boring..... or maybe military SF has lost its luster for me.|