Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REVIEW: The Desert of Stars

Title: The Desert of Stars
Genre: science fiction, military
Price: $4.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Point of Sale: Amazon Smashwords
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

The Desert of Stars is John Lumpkin’s second book, a fairly close sequel to his freshman effort, Through Struggle, The Stars.  After I read and favorably reviewed Through Struggle, I eagerly awaited Desert, hoping it was as good as the original.  It is.

This book is set in the year 2141.  Humanity, after having seen an asteroid smash into the Indian Ocean, has decided to establish colonies in space.  Thanks to a Japanese scientist, they have developed a means of faster-than-light travel, and used it to establish a bewildering array of colonies on nearby star systems.  Some colonies are independent; most are controlled by an Earth nation or group of nations. 

As we find out very early in The Desert of Stars, a number stars that should have had habitable planets don’t, thus creating the titular desert.  Since FTL travel requires going from star to star, this is a real problem, and will put the brakes on the expansion of some colonial empires but not others.  A war breaks out.

Lumpkin’s war is not, however, the mad-dash affairs of Star Trek or Star Wars.  His spaceships obey the laws of physics, taking weeks to cross a solar system.  There are no force fields, no visible lasers, and in general scientific accuracy is maintained.  This still results in a very entertaining book, largely because Lumpkin’s characters are believable and he seems to understand both militaries and history.  Much of the story is driven by the friendships developed by these characters during this war.

In Lumpkin’s previous book, I dinged him for not including a number of nations, such as India, in the order of battle.  Here, Lumpkin resolves that complaint, making India and Russia, two notable nations left out, key parts of the plot.  Lumpkin also shows a keen awareness of the old saying that “nations have no permanent friends, just permanent interests.”

In short, as literature, I found The Desert of Stars to be everything a reader of science fiction would want.


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