Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is one of those novels that you absolutely need to be in the mood for.
I've been through cycles in my reading where I might have violently rejected this kind of glorious space opera and other times where I might think it was a fairly cool, light, and transparent adventure.
This time, however, it hits me in precisely the right spot. I wanted a true and one-dimensional hero that plows excellently through all the hardships thrown at his polymath mind, overcoming moral quandaries with steadfast heart, and meeting the rest with foes with fist, knife, and projectiles, when he isn't falling back on his poor, nearly defunct career as a journalist.
Sure, he's a real hero doing heroic things as only an old-style SF adventure can do it, but there IS a twist: The novel is constrained and lifted by way of modern writing sensibilities, slightly better pacing, better science, contemporary issues writ large, and comprehensible alien politics. A lot of action and story takes place in these pages, and each builds upon the last in a very logical sequence until the grand unified story slams back at us and lets us know that we're all pawns in the hands of the author (and the convocation of aliens, alas).
After having read so many depressing and dystopian novels in the last decade, I can't help but look favourably upon this novel as a message of optimism and hope, where the good guys win and the bad guys get humiliated or crushed, where the threat of overwhelming force can be stopped by making the right friends at exactly the right time, where nefarious plots are uncovered when they can do the most good.
Truly, there's nothing wrong with having a feel-good adventure novel, especially when it avoids all those old embarrassing norms of casual ethnocentric prejudice, extremely embarrassing passive female characterizations (although one might make the argument that the woman master of martial arts has also become a trite stereotype, lately,) and embarrassing lack of even slightly reasonable physics.
I'm not saying that decohesion and travelling along a superstring and recohesion on the other side is particularly accurate, it's just a more interesting idea than a simple flolding of space or a hyperspace jump. Fans of the old adventures will get a kick out of this novel, because it is, in fact, written very well for what it is.
Because, let's face it, it's pulp fiction. It's very good pulp fiction, but it's still pulp fiction. A lot happens quickly. Hell, I kept thinking of Lensman minus the telepathy, if some of you fans of the old stuff want that kind of hint. Perhaps throw in a bit of Heinlein's early "by the bootstraps" fiction, a grand dose of 30's sensibilities, and a huge, shit-eating grin, and you'll have pegged this novel perfectly.
If that's what you're looking for or what you've been missing in your life for the last decade, then jump right in! The water's fine!
I personally loved the swim. It was a different kind of nostalgia and a welcome change. No pessimism allowed.
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