I have to be honest, my foodies, in that I haven’t had a good dining experience at the military sci-fi table. Until now, I had thought this was just a genre of cuisine that would eternally curdle my stomach. So when I had another such dish get served up out of the pantry, I was hesitant to even crack the serving dome. Still, hope springs eternal in this diner’s heart, so I bravely dove into A Sword Into Darkness. Would this be the dish that broke through to me about this genre or would this spaceship crash and burn?
Before we find out, let us recite the rules of Starving Reviewing:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
I have to be honest: Sword is a sharp bit of writing. Which is a good thing, because, uh, swords? Poor humor aside, this is definitely the first military sci-fi dish that truly impressed me, that had me focused on it for the entire read … and it’s also is wrapped in the crunchy roll of hard sci-fi, another thing that often puts my taste buds to sleep. So, what did the chef do right in this recipe that brought it above the pack?
As I say all the time, first and foremost, Sword has excellent cooking fundamentals. The key ingredients: a well-paced plot, smartly arranged exposition, relatable characters, and multi-layered dramatic conflict. Yes, there are plenty of solid genre conventions: spicy military action, that crunchy hard sci-fi layer I mentioned before, and an implacable yet imminently understandable race of alien invaders. However, it never lets these spices overwhelm those core fundamentals.
One thing I want to particularly focus on is the excellent foreshadowing and symbolism shown at various points in the meal. It was done in a nuanced fashion that, when certain plot points come to the fore of your literary palate, you suddenly taste that zest of flavor from that previous nugget of foreshadowing, that thrill of sudden understanding. As far as symbolism, if you do read Sword, a certain dinner fairly early on between three major characters is, though the detail at first blush seems excessive, deeply informative of their personalities and motives once you see the symbolism and meaning about those details.
There’s not much more I can say that won’t dive into SPOILERS, so let’s wrap this up! A Sword Into Darkness is a wonderfully flavorful and nuanced dinner of military sci-fi, the best I have read so far! If you like military sci-fi, it is a must read. If you are a general lover of sci-fi or genre fiction, it is also worth your time.
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A wonderfully flavorful and nuanced dinner of military sci-fi, the best I have read so far!)