David Weber is probably my favorite author as far as fiction is concerned, but I admit that I had put off starting his “Safehold” series for a while because I was afraid it’d ruin my perception of him–that is, as the author of the greatest military sci-fi I’ve read, the Honor Harrington series (see a discussion of one of the books here). Finally, I gave in and read it and just had to share my thoughts here.
Let’s get it out of the way: this a phenomenal way to start a series. Humanity has been all but destroyed by the alien threat known as the Gbaba. The last vestiges of humanity have been brainwashed (voluntarily) into losing all memory of technology–the way that humans were discovered by the Gbaba–and were then established on a planet, Safehold, to try to start afresh.
Some of the humans who went with them as these memory-altered humans were being sent to their planet, however, changed the programming to include an extremely powerful church hierarchy. Other humans want to stick with the game plan and have the last home of humanity be a place where they could regrow and develop technology planetside to avoid detection by the Gbaba.
These factions clashed, and from the ashes came Merlin–the main character–a kind of human-robot whose goal is to guide humanity along the second path and away from the hierarchy established by others. And that’s where this book takes off.
Weber does a masterful job interweaving elements of fantasy, political drama, and science fiction in what was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had reading a book. He sets the table for a truly epic series–one I hope will develop towards an ultimate battle with the Gbaba.
As is typical with Weber, lengthy conversations and insights into politicking are interspersed with battles–here they are battles on the high seas instead of in space. In-depth descriptions of new technology are also offered, but they add to the depth of the story rather than ever seeming dry. There are also a number of questions related to theology, philosophy, and politics that come up simply as aspects of the plot. This adds another layer of depth to a book already brimming with awesome.
When I finished this book, I stood (I was rocking my sleeping baby in a front baby carrier) and smiled as I contemplated the breadth and depth of the new world that David Weber had just introduced to me. It was an amazing moment as I realized the true scope of the plot to which I had been introduced. I hope the rest of the series cashes in on this promise, and that we get a centuries-long epic.
+Vast world with great depth to individual nations
+Huge potential for later in the series
+Seamlessly interwoven questions of philosophy, theology, and more
-Perhaps just a bit too much technical language interwoven into the story
-A very steep initial learning curve
Off Armageddon Reef is an awesome beginning, and I can’t wait to read more of Weber’s Safehold series. I’m hoping it’s going to be a centuries-spanning epic that the introductory portion seemed to promise.
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