Book: Ragnarok

07 May

Another non-pony science fiction story. This one in the military scifi genre. Way, way in the shallow end of the genre. Which is getting ahead of myself

Ragnarok by Patrick A. Vanner

This book was disappointing. It was basically low-quality fan fiction. There were parts where I was embarrassed about something that got past paid editors and ended up in a professionally published book. It got me both disappointed and encouraged. The former because that is making money and I’m not. The latter because I know I write better than that so I’ll get there eventually. Other than the bad writing (not grammar, but plot flow and plot and pacing) this story falls into two major categories of failure in my opinion. The first is one I’ve noticed a lot recently. The whole staring in the middle and trying to catch up with flashbacks or exposition. In this case I’m sure the author simply has no idea about pacing. No real flow, no building for tension, just one scene after another that start and stop when the author begins/runs out of ideas. The second is that there is almost no interesting ideas here. The other military scifi I read is hardly complex or nuanced, but has bits that make up for the lack of depth. Ringo has interesting aliens and great action scenes. Weber has sprawling space opera and naval minutiae. Drake has gritty in-your-face pragmentism and strong characters. This has nothing like that. No neat tech or cool worldbuilding ideas.

Well, that’s not entirely true. It has two ideas that could be interesting. On mentioned on the back cover, which gets next to no time in the story itself. The idea of the electronic warfare fighter pilots is almost literally confined to a half-page chunk of near-random exposition. The other idea is what the story ends on as a cliffhanger and is pretty much just a rip-off of the premise for Battlestar Galatica anyway. We get a whole chunk of the story about getting experimental weapons research and scientists from a research facility. With not one single hint about what kind of fancy new weapons. Like not even are they for ships, infantry, planets, what? So that sucked. I’m pretty much believing that the author doesn’t know either and is just trying to pretend there is cool stuff as he stalls for time to think it up. The MLP fan fiction Soldier’s Memoirs was a better piece of military fiction than this was, and that was about magical cartoon ponies.

I’d be willing to guess that the author of this grew up reading a lot of the same stuff I’ve been enjoying in recent years. All the big names in military scifi, probably a good amount of older classic scifi like Heinlein as well. This reads like someone who really enjoyed all of them and is trying to copy what he enjoyed in those author’s stories. He just has no clue why what he enjoys works and either no ideas of his own, or more likely he just has nowhere near the skill needed to express the few ideas he actually has. Entire scenes and characters in this story seemed to be present not because they make the story better, but because they are clones of things he enjoyed in other stories. Half-share, which I criticized a alot, was cliche and mary sue. Yet at least I thought the author was a good writer and built a story out of his own ideas.

I’m actually a little sorry I read this book and would not recommend it unless you really really like military scifi for reasons other than cool tech or worldbuilding ideas. Even then I’d just suggest read In Death Groud and Shiva Option again instead.

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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Books 2014, Reviews


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