Dietz and Titan Books and space opera and rambling

A little while back I mentioned that I wanted to talk more about William C. Dietz’s Andromeda’s Fall and Andromeda’s Choice: what they did well, and what they did poorly.*

But I’ve been thinking about American military space operas that get republished in the UK – Titan Books seems to be the headliner in this, having republished the works of Jack Campbell AKA John Hemry and moved on to Tanya Huff’s Valo(u)r books and Dietz – so this blog post is more of a set of disconnected questions than a coherent essay.

Neither Campbell nor Dietz are particularly innovative writers, or technically accomplished. (Huff is more interesting, but her military space opera never captured my imagination the way say David Drake’s RCN series did.) Both essentially repeat a similar narrative over and over again with little character change or growth, the former with a space navy, and the latter with a space legion étranger. What’s the appeal, and why do there seem to be no homegrown UK military space operas in a similar mode? Because as far as I can tell, SF by UK authors has a rather different focus, tonally and thematically.

Andromeda’s Choice and Andromeda’s Fall are not particularly interesting books, themselves. Their worst failing is that the narrative requires the main character to act stupidly or aimlessly. The narrative fails to commit in terms of consistency of character emotion and action – and prose itself never rises above the pedestrian. The main character, Andromeda McKee, views herself through the lens of the male gaze a little too often – but at least Dietz isn’t entirely preoccupied with breasts.

And yet, for all that, these two books possess some quality that kept me reading: despite their flaws, they’re weirdly fun. And I’m not at all sure why.

*Let’s note that in comparison to Dietz’s Legion of the Damned, they do many things well.

Books in brief: Scott, Dietz, Saintcrow, Maas, Christopher

Melissa Scott, Fairs’ Point. Lethe Press, 2014.

The long-awaited new novel of Astreiant. An absolutely excellent book, with brilliant worldbuilding, characterisation, great writing, a solid mystery plot, and terrier-racing. Everyone should read this series. It is really good.

William C. Dietz, Legion of the Damned. Titan Books, 2014. Originally published 1993. Copy courtesy of Titan Books.

I believe this was Dietz’s first novel. Heaven help him, it’s terrible. Not just full of shitty male gaze shit, but boring too. Fortunately, he’s improved at least some since then, as witness his Andromeda novels, which have been fun so far – but this one? Seriously not worth it.

Lilith Saintcrow, The Ripper Affair. Orbit, 2014. ARC courtesy of Orbit US.

Read for review for Tor.com. The third in Saintcrow’s “Bannon and Clare” series, it marks a fun entry in her quasi-Victorian magical steampunk not-England series of mysteries.

Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire. Bloomsbury Young Adult, 2014. ARC via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. The kind of book I love to hate.

Nonfiction


Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011.
First published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in 2010.

Christopher writes a solid and engaging history of the British experiment with sending convicts to act as soldiers in Africa between the American Revolutionary War and the founding of the penal colony at Botany Bay in Australia. It is not entirely comprehensive: it could use more background about the Company of Merchants Trading To Africa and their relations with the Dutch and the indigenous peoples, and Christopher is too willing not to tie off threads in her narrative once they pass away from the African coast – what did become of Ensign John Montagu Clarke, accused of mutiny? – but on the whole, it’s an interesting and readable examination of an overlooked piece of British penal history.

Books in brief: Mead, Dietz, Sagara, Wexler, Shepherd, De Pierres, Andrews, Arnason

Richelle Mead, Gameboard of the Gods and The Immortal Crown. Penguin, 2013 and 2014.

Bah. These started out promising and rapidly descended into annoying – and in The Immortal Crown, nasty evil-religion kidnapping-and-selling-pubescent-girl-children-into-life-of-abuse because… religion? I dunno, mate, I just work here. Also Odin and Loki show up – how do you make the Norse gods boring? People seem to be managing it left and right these days – and oh, yeah, I almost forgot, there is rape by deception.

William C. Dietz, Andromeda’s Fall and Andromeda’s Choice. Titan, 2014. Second book: review copy via publisher.

I want to talk some more about these books – remind me to talk some more about these books – about what parts of them work really well and what parts of them don’t work at all. But I largely concur with the Book Smugglers’ review of Andromeda’s Fall – it’s not a very clever book, but it is a fun one.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flame. Mira, 2014. Review copy via author.

Read for column. Good, fun next installment in series. If you like the series, read this book! It is a return to the city of Elantra, and lots of things go boom.

Django Wexler, The Shadow Throne. Ace, 2014. ARC via Tor.com.

Review here at Tor.com. Very fun book!

Mike Shepherd, Vicky Peterwald: Target. Ace, 2014.

Awful horrible sexist problematic WTF BOOK. Read for review for Tor.com, though heaven knows if they’ll publish my expletive-laden review.

Marianne De Pierres, Peacemaker. Angry Robot, 2014.

A fun book that mixes science fiction and the fantastic. Not entirely tightly plotted, though.

Ilona Andrews, Magic Breaks. Ace, 2014. ARC via Tor.com.

Latest series installment. Read for review for Tor.com. Fun.

Eleanor Arnason, Big Mama Stories. Aqueduct Press, 2014.

Read to talk about in a column. Interesting collection.