January 17, 2005

The Far Side of the Stars, by David Drake

The is the latest in Drake's Daniel Leary/Adele Mundy series of space operas, and I have mixed feelings about it.

In the wake of Lieutenant Leary Commanding, Cinnabar and the Alliance have signed a peace treaty, with all that that entails for junior naval officers. Things are tight all round, and even so famous a hero as Leary isn't sure of getting a ship. But just because a treaty's been signed, that doesn't mean that the Alliance is sleeping; and Cinnabaran Intelligence never sleeps. A number of interests come together: A wealthy but eccentric couple from the planet of Novy Sverdlovsk wish to explore the Galactic North, a region of loosely federated, mostly primitive systems nominally friendly to Cinnabar. Supposedly they are travelling for pleasure, to indulge their interests in archaeology and big game hunting; actually, they are looking for signs of a man named John Tsetzes, one time dictator of Novy Sverdlovsk, who upon his overthrow a century before was known to have fled to the North with a number of planetary treasures. Meanwhile, Bernis Sand, head of Cinnabaran Intelligence, wants to get a skilled observer into the Galactic North, to look for signs of Alliance activity. There have been reports that the Alliance has begun building a base in the system of Radiance, and she wants the straight dope. Adele Mundy is her agent of choice.

Leary is in need of a command. The Klimovs are in need of a ship. Bernis Sand is in need of a spy. And the Princess Cecile is being sold out of the service. Leary finds himself the civilian captain of the Cecile, under contract to the Klimovs, to a place where Cinnabaran officers have but rarely gone.

It's an interesting story, with the usual smash-bang ending; my complaint is that large parts of it were too pat. For example, once they arrive in the Galactic North and begin searching in earnest they just happen to find a relic of John Tsetzes in the first house they enter on the first planet they visit, and thereafter track his steps in the most unlikely way, with nary a misstep or red herring or backtrack.

Still, it was quite a good read, and I'll certainly get the next Lt. Leary, should there be one.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 17, 2005 03:47 PM