Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Here we have a story of Better Living Through Genetic Supremacy, now brought to you by distant offshoots of humanity and aliens devoted to interspecies symbiotic cooperatives. Cool, right? Not far off from any of the old-style SFs thinly or thickly veiled as modern commentary on schools of thought. As far as it went, the book pulled it off nicely, with lots of action, discovery, and third-person unlimited PoV including the bad guys, again.
And like the previous two novels in this series, I wanted to like the story more than I did.
I truly like the square-jawed heroes as far as they go, and this third novel changes tack yet again to play with the third well-established trope, "The Exploration and Reveal of an Alien World and Species," to a very complex and exciting world-building effect.
The first novel enjoyed "The Induction of a Hero into High-Tech Spycraft and Alien Meet," while the second novel's foundation was firmly in "The Resistance and Defeat of an Alien Invasion." All three novels had an extremely strong thread of story, thankfully, and even wrapped up a lot of the initial questions of the first book quite neatly.
Unfortunately, it lost my interest more than a handful of times and it took some fairly heroic effort to get it back, and sometimes I was annoyed all out of proportion. Some sequence of events were almost a tribute to some of the worst aspects of old SF.
For example, imagine this sequence of events: Hunted by clones on an alien world, sick with planetary defence spores, riding on the back of alien water swimmers, hungry and afraid, we'll now treat you to a long-ass diatribe on the alien sexual characteristics of the beasts we're riding, in detail, in utter disregard for the fact that Caine is having a hard time breathing and is afraid that the clones will have tracked the nanites he's infected with.
Great tension destroyer.
Unfortunately, it's pretty common in old style SF, too, where the joy of creation and world-building overbalances the flow of the tale. Oops! I just wish it hadn't happened so much here!
I love great spaceship descriptions and battles and running and hiding for my life as much as anyone, but I think what I really wanted more of was actual character development, more active story changes rather than pew pew and duck and cover. A little goes a long way for me, and these last two books were FULL of them.
So if you're a fan of action adventure SF with pretty amazing world-building and very well-thought out alien species and development, I think you'll love this novel. It harkens back to the old days very intelligently and does those same old days much better because it's full of much more accurate science.
This is the second to the last of the nominated 2016 Nebula books *that I've read*, and while I am not voting because I can't, I'll just pretend for a moment that I am. :)
This novel isn't the winner. It's excellent for what it is, but it's overlong and somewhat a throwback.
I'm sticking with The Fifth Season, then Uprooted for now.
I still need to read Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard. It might upset the apple cart. Who knows?
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