SF Reviews background image SF Reviews logo image
Contact SF Reviews   |   Get the Newsletter 

Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

A Talent For War

Copyright 1989 by Jack McDevitt

In Association with Amazon.com In Association with Amazon.co.uk
SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (2/5)

I first read this in 1991 and most recently on the 27th July 2010

The massive invasion fleets of the alien Ashiyyur swept in to attack the human worlds. Christopher and Tarien Sim gathered their few Dellacondian allies and fought against the Ashiyyur They hit and harried the aliens as they approached human space. The other human worlds held back, supporting a policy of non-aggression that the Sim brothers were tearing apart.

Christopher Sim died, but Tarien lived to see first Rimway, then Toxicon and finally all the worlds join his Dellacondia against the aliens.

Finally a truce was established and peace returned. Christopher Sim, of all the heroes, was held in highest regard. It was his last battle, the one in which he died, that triggered the human empire to support his campaign and aims.

Now, two hundred years later, Alex Benedict's uncle Gabriel has just died. Gabriel was apparently on the brink of uncovering evidence that would upturn the history of those long ago battles. It seems that there were others who may know, or at least suspect, the evidence that will be found. These others will use any means to prevent Alex discovering the truth that his uncle sought.

Alex and his pilot Chase Kolpath risk their own lives and others to uncover an astonishing truth.

The book has an unfortunate cover. It's a portrait of a bearded man wearing a space helmet. Oddly, the visor is open and his beard is sticking out - I always imagined a sudden air-leak, our hero spending the next hours with his chin in agony, his bear caught as the visor automatically clamped shut. Amusing as that was, the cover lacks certain sophistication. It has been a bit of an embarrassment to read it in the local teahouse.

Mind you, not as much of an embarrassment as the cover of "Knight Moves" by Walter Jon Williams, an excellent book in the tradition of Roget Zelazny. The cover features a centaur, specifically a red-haired and windblown female centaur.

On the bright side with regards to McDevitt's book, I was able to position my thumb over the spaceman's face, leaving the helmet looking rather surprisingly like a large artificial space habitat, an improvement.

A short illustrated guide to thumb positioning is available from SF Reviews. By the way, don't try the same on Walter Jon Williams "Knight Moves". It's not possible to block out enough of the centaur's equine portion to disguise it. If you simply block out the girl, you're still left with a horse on the cover, which is almost as a bad as a centaur. And you can't see the girl.

Let's not drift off topic here. It's a pretty good book. McDevitt works hard and successfully to make us feel the excitement of the historical events. Particularly enjoyable is where McDevitt makes the reader feel involved and excited by Alex's observation of a historical recreation of one the famous battles.

Loaded on the 31st December 2014.
Cover of A Talent For War
Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet

Reviews of other works with covers by Darrell K. Sweet:
Heechee Rendevous
The Burning City