Superficially this book is an expansion of a short story from Torgersen’s Lights in the Deep Collection. But there’s nothing superficial about this story.
Modern science fiction suffers a surfeit of super-heroic protagonists who are smarter, faster and luckier than everyone else. Torgersen’s Harrison Barlow isn’t. In fact, he thinks he’s a coward, a loser and unqualified to be a Chaplain’s Assistant because he doesn’t believe God exists or cares what he does.
Maybe he’s wrong. On several counts.
After an opening section straight out of “The Chaplain’s Legacy” short story, the story advances and retreats to fill in back story and continue the original story line. Because the back story starts as a typical Boot Camp hell, this didn’t seem to contribute. Then, as the plot lines converge, both stories come alive as Barlow’s and Earth’s friends, forces and future seem lost. Finally Barlow makes an existential leap, after which … nothing happens. Perhaps that’s the point.
Torgersen writes with sympathy and understanding of the individuals who don’t have all the answers, can’t climb all the hills, don’t think they have anything to contribute. But they’re wrong, too.
This upside down space opera will entertain most, and encourage a few. Yeah, the ending’s sappy, but give the guy a break: Barlow earned it.
Nice cover art, though it under-represents the mantes’ three-meter disc.