No Way to Start a War, the second book in the TCOTU series (This Corner of the Universe) by Britt Ringel is a well thought out military space opera with excellent characters. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but Now Way to Start a War is better.
First of all, the conflict between the Hollaran Commonwealth and the Brevic Republic is heating up. Lt. Heskan and his crew face dangerous enemies as they become part of a new mission and learn to handle a larger ship. New and old battle tactics become important, and Heskan has decisions to make.
No Way to Start a War benefits from tighter control of point of view characters, a high-stakes plots, and some serious moral dilemmas faced by various characters. But one of the biggest home runs in the book is the antagonist. I won’t put any spoilers in this review, but Ringel did an excellent job with one of the primary antagonist, an area of storytelling were many authors, even the greats, often fall short.
My “job” as a book reviewer is to help readers, to tell it all, to shuck it down to the cob as we say in these here parts. I am confidently giving No Way to Start a War a five (5) star review, so keep that in mind when I share my less favorite parts.
Science fiction fans love detail. I marvel at how much technical and operational detail authors like Britt Ringel can put into a book. Sometimes, for me, it is too much and slows things down. Take it for what it’s worth; the detail in this book is very thorough. On one hand, I learn a lot about how a space faring naval force might operate. I believe Ringel's bio says he was an officer in the Air Force. He seems qualified to speculate on how would operate in the future. So if you are the type of science fiction fan that thrives on this kind of thing, the TCOTU series is definitely for you. If you have a shorter attention space and suffer from slow-reading-syndrome (I daydream as I read fiction--entering the story world as it were), then the TCOTU is still very excellent.
I’ve said it before, Britt Ringel’s books remind me of Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey in space. There really isn’t higher praise than that.
Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot of posts about novel writing. Most of these have focused on editing or story structure. For years I used organic / seat-of-the-pants drafting methods with heavy revision and editing, but why talk about that. It’s self explanatory. So to improve my craft, I’ve studied structure and posted what I’ve learned. I write in several genres, but prefer science fiction, fantasy, and a mixture of urban fantasy and horror with a dash of crime fiction thrown it. These are the types of things I like to read. Historical fiction is a also particular favorite of mine, though I have not tried to write anything in that genre yet.
Science fiction contains several subfields of specialization such as space opera, military, adventure, and even fantasy or horror. I never worried exactly which type of scifi my stories fell into, as I was busy dreaming the adventure to life. There are usually aspects of each subfield in my novels. I am, however, aware that readers of science fiction have standards and preferences. For science fiction to truly be science fiction, it must at least start from what is known about the universe. The speculative technology is imagined or extrapolated from that basis.
Recently I began a project to sharpen my skills in this area. I did a Google search for "science fiction for science fiction writers" and was directed to several books on Amazon. I selected numerous titles and put them on my wish list, then started planning when they would fit into the budget. Fortunately for me, I already have of a couple of books on the topic which I read years ago. For the purpose of educating myself in hopes of being a better science fiction writer, I have begun a fresh read of Space Travel: A writer's guide to the science of interplanetary and interstellar travel.
Space Travel is edited by Ben Bova with Anthony R Lewis. As I write this blog and look at the book, I am at a loss for exactly who is the author…such is the way of nonfiction I suppose. Space Travel was copyrighted in 1997 by Ben Bova. Content was edited by David Tompkins and David H. Borcherding, production edit by Jennifer Lepore, design by Angela Lennert Wilcox, and the cover illustration credits go to Bob Eggleton.
If I remember correctly from the first time I read this book, it is a good overview of issues that come up when writing a science fiction novel. Part of my mission to improve my science and thus improve my science fiction, will involve more than just reading books, but this is a good place to start. And I thought I would start with somebody with a great deal of credibility. So let me mention a little bit about Ben Bova.
This is a quote from the about the editor section of Space Travel: A writer's guide to the science of interplanetary and interstellar travel:
About the editor
Ben Bova is author of Mars, Moonrise, and more than ninety other novels, nonfiction and instructional books, including The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells for writer's Digest books. The former editor of Analog Science Fiction and Omni magazines, Bova is the six-time winner of science fiction's Hugo award for best professional editor. He is president emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
This blog post is a book review. It is about becoming a better writer. I've just started reading Space Travel and am learning about rockets and some basics of physics. Other topics that are listed in the table of contents include orbit, living and working in space, space industries, space habitats, the moon, advanced spacecraft, the solar system, the stars, starships, the universe, legal aspects, and military uses of space.
I hope you'll join me in this blog in the future and open a discussion about writing in general and also the genre of science fiction. I'm not someone who has formalized training in science and I don’t work in an industry of the scientific nature, so I need all the help I can get.
Life is an adventure. I read to expand my horizons and write because I must.
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