Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Few Good Men Review

I have mentioned Sarah Hoyt, writer of science fiction and other things, before when she wrote of building a "Galt's Network".  At that time I had read one of her free books called Draw One in the Dark, a fantasy novel of shape-shifting waiters and waitresses.  Yep. 

Anyway, Mrs. Hoyt is a high-quality writer, if not entirely appealing to my tastes, and I decided to give one of her "space opera" novels a shot.  I bought a copy of A Few Good Men recently and got a chance to finish it -- which doesn't always happen even with the best of books and intentions. 

I like good space opera -- H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy and Space Vikings, for example, are among my favorites.  Hoyt has created a "Darkship" universe set three or four hundred years in the future when Earth is ruled by genetically modified "Good Men", and there are renegade humans in space.  (It's called "space opera" because of the setting rather than the science.) 

A lot of people compare her work to Heinlein.  Two of Heinlein's works that are especially near to my heart are Glory Road and what I consider the old master's best -- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Hoyt has some of the same themes.  A Few Good Men reflects a libertarian world view.  It is well-written.  I liked it. 

Here's a kind of spoiler -- the main protagonists are queer as three-dollar bills.  The romance is a little different than we are used to.  I think Mrs. Hoyt handles it well -- perhaps even too well. 

Look, if we had a pair of adulterers as protagonists, we could accept that, but I think we would want to be careful about endorsing that aspect of their relationship.  We understand this happens.  We recognize that such things don't necessarily mean that people aren't good in other ways, but there is this part of their character that is flawed. 

Personally, I tend to lump homosexuality -- between consenting adults -- with other forms of fornication, like adultery and sex outside of marriage.  I reject the idea of homosexual marriage, though I do not have a problem with civil domestic partnership contracts, which I think should be available not just to homosexual couples but to anyone.  In any case, the libertarian part of my Christian Libertarian approach says that it a person's own business who or what they choose to sleep with -- so long as it doesn't involve children and no innocent people are deprived of their freedom.

So, as far as Hoyt making her hero an unrepentant homosexual, no big deal.  He's a character in a book, and this is who he is.  Cool.  However, I think anyone as clearly intelligent and self-aware as this character would probably have more qualms about his lifestyle.  This guy has been genetically modified, so, theoretically, that could have an impact on his preferences.  In our world of "natural" humans, most homosexuals are made through family dynamics, molestation, and other factors rather than born.  I don't believe in the "gay gene". 

That quibble aside -- and, despite the space I wasted on it here, it does not hurt the story overall, my other complaint has to do with the amount of time spent on eating.  It seemed to me like about sixty percent of the novel involves what goes on while these guys are having a meal.  And that, my friends, is the difference between a novel written by an honest, traditional man and a novel written an honest, traditional woman.  There's nothing wrong with it, I just ended up thinking that all these people really do is eat. I get the feeling that meal times are important at the Hoyt house.

This is a good, enjoyable, solidly written, philosophically appealing science fiction novel in the tradition of greats like Heinlein and Piper.  It is the first installment of the "Earth Revolution" series.  I may well read the subsequent installments, and I am seriously considering her Darkship Renegades and Darkship Thieves novels as well.   


  1. Since I'm a simple man and like to identify with the male protagonists in any fiction I read, I think I'll give this book a pass.

  2. That's legitimate. I don't see what was gained by that, other than it's different. And the more I think about it, the big action sequence is built around the fact that Guy #1 has to rescue Guy #2 because Guy #2 is so vital to the success of the revolution. Except it turns out he isn't all that much. Lives are sacrificed in what amounts to an exchange of one lynchpin for another. Instead of it being about the revolution, it becomes about love. it's a little like how Jackson threw Arwen dying of Sauronic oppression to put a little more pressure on Aragorn. You're not just saving the world; you're saving your girlfriend.

    I go in to new science fiction with such low expectations anymore that almost anything can clear the bar.

    Fortunately, I have Watership Down and A Canticle for Leibowitz lined up to re-read and cleanse the palate.