Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review - The Road of Danger by David Drake

The Road of Danger
Republic of Cinnabar Navy (Lt. Leary) Book Nine
David Drake
Trade Paperback
(Advance Reader’s Copy)
Publisher: Baen
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
368 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1451638158
Cover Art: Steve Hickman


     In the grand tradition of Golden Age Space Opera, The Road of Danger, the ninth in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy series, is an exemplary example of the genre. The series has, and rightly so, been compared to the high-seas adventures of Horatio Hornblower by C. S. Forester and the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. Except, and this is really important so listen closely, the RCN (or Lt. Leary) books are much, much better. Yes, I said it, and I’ll probably hear all sorts of flack since both Forester and O’Brian are much beloved authors. But, hear me out. They didn’t write Science Fiction Space Opera. And, the RCN books have something you’ll not find anywhere in those classics - space ships, FTL sub-lightspeed travel, and plasma ray guns. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews you’d know by the content that I’m a long-time Science Fiction fan. So, it should come as no surprise that I place the RCN series higher than those set on the high seas. (My apologies to Forester and O’Brian fans.)

     With that said, I think that Mr. Drake has an exceptional eye for developing atypical and fascinating personalities. The two main characters, Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy, are no exception and happen to work together like a well-oiled space-cruiser. Leary is a brilliant strategist, a charismatic, successful naval officer with a professional hit-man’s instincts and has an even-tempered nature even in the face of adversity. Mundy, the intelligence officer, is a self-professed information hound, is composed even under duress, has a no-nonsense attitude, and is especially competent with fire-arms. She isn’t afraid to shoot it out if the situation calls for it either. The minor characters stand out, as well. Lieutenant Vesey of the fighting corvette Princess Cecile is an able sailor who keeps her composure even during intense situations. And Leary’s and Mundy’s retainers, the sociopathic Hogg and Tovera, provide deadly, yet somehow comic relief.

     Ordered to a normally peaceful sector of the galaxy to  quell a minor coup and repatriate the ringleader Leary and Mundy get caught up in local politics. But life as an officer in the RCN is rarely static and they quickly discover that the rebellion is backed by a syndicate of warring merchants on a nearby world where commerce rules, profits are high, and business is conducted with coercion and by armed conflict. The situation is made worse when a rogue Alliance intelligence officer plots to rekindle the Alliance-Cinnabar war for his own gain. Leary, Mundy, and their team must find a way stop the rebellion, capture the recreant officer, and bring peace back to the sector.

     All in all, The Road of Danger is, in my opinion, not the best of the nine stand-alone RCN books (Lt. Leary, Commanding is my favorite.) It is, nevertheless, a solid and entertaining addition to this fast-paced, adventure series. More importantly, it was as much fun to read as the others.

     Recommended for Science Fiction Space Opera fans, military fiction enthusiasts, action-adventure buffs, political intrigue lovers, space gadget geeks, war/combat/strategy fanatics, and those who love a dose of solid throw-back Science Fiction.

     File with: The Lensman Series by E.E. “Doc” Smith; the Captain Future books by Edmond Hamilton, the Known Space works of Larry Niven; Star Wars; the Culture books by Iain M. Banks, Allen Steele’s Coyote series, and, my current favorite, Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series.

4 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

David Drake Official Site

RCN Wiki Page (Free Downloads)

With the Lightnings Free Download

Space Opera Wiki Page

Republic of Cinnabar Navy (Lt. Leary) Series

1. With the Lightnings (1998)
2. Lt. Leary, Commanding (2000)
3. The Far Side of The Stars (2003)
4. The Way to Glory (2005)
5. Some Golden Harbor (2006)
6. When the Tide Rises (2008)
7. In the Stormy Red Sky (2009)
8. What Distant Deeps (2010)
9. The Road of Danger (2012)

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