Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kris Longknife Defender by Mike Shepherd aka Mike Moscoe

Rating: WARTY!

This is the last volume of the Kris Longknife series I ever intend to read. It's been a long run and I enjoyed some of the earlier volumes, but as the series dragged on, the stories became more and more formulaic and less and less interesting, more trudging and more boring. I don't know who his editor is, but Mike Sbepherd is still using the wrong words here and there (like amend when he needed append, for example).

This one, volume eleven, was better than the previous volume, but nonetheless tedious. Nothing happened for most of it. The big battle took place in the last twenty pages of a 370 page book, and was by rote and uninventive, so in the end this volume was just like the last one: a prologue for the next one where, I presume (although there are never any guarantees in this series) there will be a final showdown with the belligerent alien race the humans have encountered, and on their home turf. That makes two successive prologues. I am not a fan of prologues and I skip them as a matter of habit. I'm glad I'm now done with these.

For the first time in this series that I really found myself skipping and skimming, especially during the pathetic and amateur "romance" scenes between the now-married "Jack" and Kris, who despite being this Mary Sue commander who never loses, still needs "Jack"'s protective arms around her to feel safe.

Most of this tedious book was about logistics, with the occasional light fight with roaming belligerent alien ships to leaven it not much. There was their rescue mission to locate the other ship which had escaped the previous battle, and the search and rescue was performed like an afterthought despite all the pompous posturing about "leaving no one behind". Seriously? One of the things which turns me off this series is the jingoism and bullshit infallible military pomp.

The worst part about this book though, was that the humans had no problem whatsoever raping and pillaging the alien planet for resources. Yes, they were short of food, and they needed materials for the fight (this is the first book in the series in a while - perhaps since the first one - where the title actually described the overall story!), but this doesn't excuse the takeover of the benign alien planet with little regard for the locals. It made Kris & crew look far more similar to the belligerent aliens than to decent human beings. And they're still stripping gas giants for "reaction mass" to power their ships. Apparently they have learned nothing from disasters on Earth from poor management of resources, from reliance on unsustainable resources, and from pollution and contingent climate change!

I didn't get the issue with the food. The author is evidently telling us that in several hundred years of expansion into space, the only technological advances humans have made are all tied to militarism, and none to human comfort. Space-farers in the future will still have to haul food supplies with them evidently, since they have no means whatsoever of manufacturing food on-board their spacecraft. They still have to wholesale slaughter living things on random planets they pass to get 'fresh meat'. Shepherd seems not to grasp that a planet's ecology is tightly interwoven. Things do not evolve randomly, but in step with the environment and with other living things. The chances of humans being able to actually digest things which have grown on alien planets is highly questionable at best due to a crucially differing biology and genetic roots.

One thing the author did mention here, if only in passing was the pointlessness of considering trade to be an option over interstellar distances. I've raised this issue in several reviews of space-opera style stories, and finally the author agrees with me, but it's passed over too quickly evidently for him to realize that everything he's written previously about trade between planets is negated by the few words he typed out here. I rest my case.

I can't recommend this, and I can't recommend the series overall unless you want to turn off your brain and just have some dumb-ass and very light reading. That might work, but even then you have to face the formulaic nature of the stories which are, until the last few volumes, simply the same story told over again with slightly varied situations and actors. Even for the last few volumes, they were largely the same when you get right down to it. It's tedious to keep reading of the same situations, and hearing the same conversations, the same pat assessments, the same stock phrases all of which appear to be tied to American ancient history (as it would be in these novels), and seeing the same characters in different guises, and hearing the "homespun wisdom" of the old timers spouted endlessly over again.

The one character conspicuous by her absence over the last few volumes was Vicki Peterwald, because she was being spun off into her own series. This doesn't account for the fact that she was bonding with Kris after being mortal enemies, yet now seems to have reversed her course, so I am curious about that, and I have one volume of her series which I shall also review, but I have to confess right here that I'm not holding out much hope for it. We'll see!