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Thomas A. Mays (Tom) is an 19-years-and-counting veteran of the US Navy, working as an officer in the surface fleet aboard destroyers and amphibious ships, as well as teaching and assisting with research into electromagnetic weapons and ballistic missile defense. He has two degrees in applied physics, but his passion is writing (he tries not to let what he actually knows get in the way of telling a good story). "A Sword Into Darkness" is his first published novel, but he is working on a sequel (among other projects) and releasing an anthology of his published and unpublished military science fiction, "REMO" in April, 2014. Tom usually lives wherever the Navy tells him to (currently North Carolina), making a home with his lovely wife, three beautiful kids, and an insane Hawaiian mutt. Tom's blog, The Improbable Author, can be found at: http://improbableauthor.com/
on April 15, 2016 :
Military Science Fiction and Space Opera seamlessly fused together into one long struggle for the fate of Earth and humanity.
The near-future setting is socially and technologically plausible, and the conventions stick to hard science right up until the point where the conventions of Space Opera - big ships, high powered thrust, awesome weapons capable of titanic destruction for good or ill - must take over. Even the speculation for the "magic space drive" is rooted in some semi-plausible physics, which is a happy medium between sticking purely to present day technology and science and completely overturning physical laws that have been considered reliable and steadfast for decades if not centuries.
The motivations of the aliens are more original than most invasion stories, and the old standbys are mentioned by name early on which is a nice nod to the established genres. While the aliens themselves are described as being truly alien in the sense of being totally unfamiliar, enough of their behavior corresponds to a human equivalent to cement them as decidedly villainous; and that's always a bonus in a Space Opera. Likewise, the characters are all fleshed out in ways that make it very ease to connect with them. Love them or hate them, it's hard to not want to know what happens to them next.
One element that doesn't always crop up in a Space Opera adventure is the subject of political intrigue - in A Sword Into Darkness, the politics is almost the primary plot and relegates the threat of alien invasion to a background element. In its own way it adds a sense of realism to a story involving the fundamentally fantastic. On top of that it also provides an example of a first contact fiction convention (the military being needlessly, ruthlessly, or pointlessly aggressive when it comes to alien life) and turns it upside down. It's always nice to see old ideas reinvented and taken apart and put together in new ways, and it also helps characterize one of the main antagonists. So much so that I found myself yelling "Do your damned job you asshole!" at my computer screen at three different points in the novel.
If I had to pick one element out of the whole story to call an Achilles Heel, after much deliberation, I would have to point at the main protagonist's personality. It's not so much that he's a cypher, but compared to all the other bombastic characters - an eccentric billionaire, shrewd and scheming politicians, a mad scientist, and a smart-ass veteran - he just gets overshadowed. Both in and out of the story, he seems to be defined by the roll he plays in a larger structure, more than any innate characteristics of his own. Even so, that doesn't detract from the rest of the story in any way. It all fits together, and it all works.
Now if only the author could stop going around trying to protect the country and come up with a sequel. (He certainly left enough hooks.) A top notch read, from start to finish.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on May 16, 2014 :
An excellent sci-fi adventure. Written in a style that combines high-tech with pulp. The story takes place over several decades starting with the discovery of aliens on there way to earth and ending with... read the book and find that out. The explanation of why the aliens are coming to Earth is truly original.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)