Sunday, May 04, 2008

When the Tide Rises by David Drake

Commander Daniel Leary is the son of a senator of the Republic of Cinnabar. He and his father do not get along or agree, so Daniel didn't follow his father into politics, instead going into the RCN, the space navy. Along the way, he picked up a fellow noble, Adele Mundy, who was ekeing out life as a librarian, to run his computers, because she is a prodigy with computers. Adele was also a spy, but because the owes her life to Daniel Leary, she uses all the information she can to support and help him, and has a bodyguard of her own named Tovera, who is an assassin who sees nothing wrong with killing people.

Daniel Leary's mentor and superior, Admiral Anston, has recently retired from the service after suffering a heart attack, and his replacement, Vocaine, has taken a decided dislike to anyone that Anston favored, presumably to make his own imprint on the office. Since Leary is out of favor, that probably means he won't be getting any sort of good assignment for him or his crew.

Luckily, he is assigned to help a minor world fight off the attacks of the alliance. Pelosi has no navy of its own, and is getting antsy, as it isn't far from a world the Alliance is blockading, Diamondia in the Jewel system. His first task is to get or capture more ships for Pelosi, so that the world has a chance to defend itself from the alliance. Leary is allowed to take his ship, the Princess Cecilia, better known as the Sissy, on this mission, but he will have no backup, and only the crew he had before.

Commander Leary knows better than to complain, and he ships for Pelosi, stopping at Diamondia on the way, where the Admiral in charge, Admiral James, complains to Leary that he is undersupplied and under-reinforced. He can manage to hold off the Alliance for only a short while, and if they increase the number of ships blockading the planet, he can only hold them for a few short weeks, perhaps a month. Leary would like to help him, but he has a mission of his own.

Arriving on Pelosi, Leary nearly has a ship named after him, but manages to avert it, which would be seen as the basest sort of pride and arrogance among the other officers of the RCN. The Generalissima and her advisors assure Daniel Leary that they are behind them all the way, but are secretly trading with the Alliance behind the back of the RCN. Leary decides to put a stop to it by attacking the outpost where the meetings are taking place and confiscates the ships of the merchanters doing the illegal trading, selling them as prizes and to enlarge the fleet of Pelosi.

He then frees the colony of Skye from an overlord partial to the Alliance and helps the people there declare their independence and ensures they will stay free, all after he is abandoned by the Pelosian ships. On his return to Pelosi, he is put under arrest and told that Pelosi doesn't need the kind of trouble he is making for them.

But with Adele Mundy's help, he kidnaps the Pelosian head of the navy and takes him on a raid at a nearby Alliance shipping yard, where he makes off with 20 ships, and returns the Pelosian ship to the head of the navy, warning them that war... real war, is coming to them, and to keep that in mind.

Then, with his prizes in tow and once more in command of the Sissy, he returns to Diamondia, where he comes up with a plan to help Admiral James to draw off part of the Alliance force, and end the blockade of the planet. But no plan long survives contact with the enemy. Can Leary battle the odds and come out ahead once more?

I like this series, and enjoy the way that both Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy grow and mature with each book. Daniel has gone from an eager kid to a polished commander and leader of men, and Adele Mundy from someone who was dead inside and rarely had a human emotion to someone who takes pleasure in the accomplishments in the successes of her assistant. She even reaches out to another crewman who needs Commander Leary, and whom he needs in return.

Of course, its not just the human elements that make this series so worth reading. The battles, both naval and political that attract me to this series. I don't really understand politics, so I don't do very well at writing them, and I am hopeless at writing stuff that rings true militarily, but David Drake gets them both exactly right. Every scene rings so true to life that you would swear it had actually happened somewhere, even down to the space battles.

He also gets the feeling of military life right, the endless hours of waiting, the rules which seem mindless and irritating, and the kind of fighting spirit that men in the service feel for and with one another. And since I have never been in the service, I can only guess if he is actually right, but again, it *feels* right. And since David Drake is a Veteran of Vietnam, I am sure it *is* right to his experience.

I often enjoy military-themed SF, and David Drake is one of the best at writing it. Any series of his is not to be missed.

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