Review: Redliners

Redliners - David Drake

I liked some aspects of this book, but I disliked other aspects.  

Let’s start with the beginning.  I was overwhelmed in the beginning.  We’re immediately thrust into a major battle, with a large number of characters splitting up into small squads, each heading off in different directions to accomplish various objectives toward a larger goal.  Jumping right into the action isn’t normally a problem for me.  The problem in this case was that we’re introduced to about a dozen different characters within the first 3% of the book, combined with quite a bit of new terminology to absorb.  Meanwhile, while I was trying to keep track of who all the characters were, I was also still trying to wrap my head around the big picture of what everybody was trying to accomplish.  I was even a little confused about the political situation and about who was fighting whom because they used two different names for the same enemy.

Once we started cycling back through scenes with characters we’d already met, and once I had gathered more context with which to understand the world I’d been dumped into, I slowly started to get things straight in my head.   The beginning was really just setup to help us understand what kinds of things the characters had been through, and why they were so messed up.  That leads me to one of the things I liked about this book.  The soldiers’ attitudes and frustrations seemed very realistic.  They were doing their jobs, at great personal cost, for the benefit of civilians whom they felt didn’t care about them and didn’t understand the sacrifices being made on their behalf – if the civilians even bothered to think about them at all.  The bulk of the story involves the soldiers protecting a group of colonists on a dangerous planet, and I really liked the mutual respect that developed between the two groups of people over the course of the book.  

I also liked the overall story itself.  I was curious about just what was going on with the planet, I was curious what each next threat would be, and I was curious about how everybody would survive (or not) those threats.  On the other hand, I didn’t feel heavily invested in the characters.  I liked them, and they were interesting and felt realistic, but they were dropping like flies.  It’s difficult to invest in characters when you know there’s a good chance they’ll be dead within a few pages.  When it comes to character deaths in books, I think less is more.  One or two deaths of major characters can add tremendous emotional impact, but large numbers of deaths just build numbness.  On the other hand, given the situations the characters were in, all of those deaths were undoubtedly realistic.  So it’s a little hard for me to complain, because I do like realism.  But, at the same time, it reduced my investment in the characters and that’s a large determining factor in how much I enjoy a book.

Although I liked the ending somewhat, I felt like it was too abrupt.  The resolution to the problem at hand was sufficient, I thought, although it did leave some open questions and it wasn’t all that well fleshed out.  But I really wanted to know more about what happened to the characters afterward.  The ones that were left, anyway.