Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Raising Caine, by Charles E. Gannon

First up in my Nebula award nominees for best novel this year is Raising Caine, third in his Tales of the Terran Republic series.  This series doesn't pretend to be a trilogy--it will go on as long as it doesn't jump the shark.

My reviews of the first two in the series were only so-so, with lots of fun to be poked.  He improves with each installment.  This time he is solidly playing to his strengths--the romance is buried deep (his wife Elena is gravely injured and in a cold sleep chamber), the military jargon is thick, and the diplomatic intrigue has added layers.  Our hero Caine Riordan becomes ever more superhuman as he navigates the difficult territory of trying to keep the Terrans in the mix of more advanced species.

This time around it's coming out in the open that the K'tor are actually a version of humanity, bred to be fully ruthless and sociopathic.  Riordan battles a renegade faction of the K'tor while helping form relationships with the Slaasrithi, a "polytaxic" species with highly advanced biology.  They appear to be solid allies, but their advanced abilities make it hard to trust.

Lots of grand action and weaponry along the way.  But most interestingly, Gannon has hewed very close to the vision he started the series with--a throwback to the John W. Campbell era values of superhuman protagonists and generally clever humanity.  We might not be the tecbnological equals of all, but we make up for it in pluck and curiosity. 

Gannon has driven deep into his strengths to make this a strong three-star book.  But to keep getting award nominations I think he's going to have to demonstrate more range.  David Drake and Eric Flint are pretty good at this kind of fiction, but they haven't garnered a lot of awards.  This series could develop depth or become formulaic.  We shall see.

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