Sunday, 12 June 2011

Book Review: Yellow Eyes

From Google. The other cover had some sort of Beastman in Power Armor? Not sure what THAT was...
My first book review will unfortunately start off in the middle of a series. For those wondering, I plan to review whatever books I happen to read. I have just finished Yellow Eyes, by John Ringo and Tom Kratman.

Warning: Thar be spoilers ahead, matey!

Yellow Eyes is part of John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata series. The story takes place before and during the Posleen invasion of Earth: chronologically, it begins during A Hymn Before Battle and ends between Gust Front and When the Devil Dances.

The writing style is pretty much what I have come to expect from Ringo: easy, laid-back, very accessible, with some extremely irritating comma usage (or more importantly, lack thereof). Kratman's influence is detectable--the narration is a bit more informal, and some of the scenes are gory in very descriptive ways. Whereas Ringo would before have left the effects of certain injuries more vague, Kratman goes into detail.

The story is also what I have come to expect. The good guys win, and the bad guys lose. I found the story predictable, with certain deaths forseeable (marriage is a death sentence, by the way) and the survivors just about what I expected (with the possibility of a few Posleen, who I either expected to live or die, and had those expectations reversed).

The problem was, as it was in When the Devil Dances and Hell's Faire, is that I'm not rooting for the humans. I want the Posleen to kick those threshkreen's asses and eat them! John Ringo has created characters in the Posleen God Kings who are generally far more likable, changeable, real than the plastic humans who are defending Earth against the oncoming alien hordes. Without the O'Neil clan, I don't mourn for the lost soul of humanity, as I did in Hell's Faire. There was no chance to see a man call down a nuclear blast on his own daughter so he could follow orders that he despised with every fiber of his being. (By the way, I think the exchange between Jack Horner and Mike O'Neil in When the Devil Dance's is one of the finest parts of the series--O'Neil literally destroying his own building in impotent rage was an image that still stick with me.) Instead, Yellow Eyes give us a few humans who are good, and a few who are bad. Granted, the scenes involving the military coup are well done, but I never get the sense of loss that I do in the main series. I get...confusion. While the slaughters of Posleen by humans in the main series are heroic and tragic at the same time, in this book, they are gross. The soldiers think it is hilarious as Posleen are disemboweled while slipping to and fro in the blood of their mutilated comrades, but I was half afraid the author did too.

And that's the part that bugged me the most. The Posleen, whom I cared about more deeply than some of the humans (I'm looking at you, token ACS officer) were getting the crappy end of the stick, in some cases for no apparent reason. (The native american who ravages an entire oolt and kills one of my favorite Posleen ever written can bite me.) There was never any sense they could win, because the cards were stacked against them from the start. I never felt like Panama could fall, as much as the author kept telling it could happen soon. There was just too much plot armor for a clan whose normals only had boma blades to cut through.

But my brother tells me this leads into The Tuloriad, which I am very much looking forward to. 'Cause I love me some Tulo'stenaloor more than just about anything else in the entire series.

So, in conclusion. This book is a decent addition to the Legacy of the Aldenata series, but not my favorite. If you read for big battles and killing hordes of Posleen, look no further--it has that in spades. What it lacks is the sense of dehumanization and cultural shift that so nicely formed the background of the main four books; the sense that humanity could indeed lose the war, and even if it wins, we may not like what we become. That is what made the Legacy of the Aldenata distinct for me, and that is what Yellow Eyes unfortunately lacks.

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