Saturday, 11 February 2017

Duchess of Terra: Review

A new Glynn Stewart novel is always cause for celebration, and 'Duchess of Terra' is certainly no exception to the rule. The sequel to 'The Terran Privateer', this book follows on directly from its predecessor, and answers a question that is all too frequently forgotten. What happens after the 'good guys' win? The original novel had a good, solid ending, but left a lot of questions answered – but then, often, that's the case with any ending. In this particular case, well, I won't leave any spoilers, but suffice to say that it was quite clear that there were going to be near-infinite complications resulting from the outcome of the first book, and this book begins the process of exploring them.

Wow, I really couldn't be any more vague if I tried, but I really don't want to spoil this one for anybody. Suffice to say that the quality is up to the usual high standard, the characters and plots are rich and detailed, and that you will not regret picking this book up for a second – if only, as I said, because it does the 'what happened next' that is all too rare in this genre. Not to mention that it ses up plenty of scope for a sequel that I am already impatient to read.

And yet, it can present some outstanding possibilities for story development. Writing the 'Great Space War' is something done all too often, but I can't remember the last time I read the 'Peace Summit' novel that followed it – though as the example of the Versailles negotiations should show, they can be every bit as interesting and exciting as the war that preceded it. Perhaps the best genre example I can think of is accidental, the fifth season of Babylon 5. Legendarily, the production team had been told that they would only be getting four seasons, and compressed their plot down accordingly, only to be unexpectedly renewed for new season – having used up the bulk of their material.

That forced the creators into 'what happened next'. To be fair, it has always been made clear that there were going to be some elements of this in the fifth season, but it ended up becoming an entire twenty-two episode run, rather than the shorter story arc that had been intended. Given the troubled genesis...(Wow, there's a book title – I think I just named Starcruiser Polaris 4) of the season, it shouldn't be any surprise that it was a struggle; I think it's generally accepted that the fifth season is the weakest of the five, though it certainly has its moments. Nevertheless, it was a bold attempt – when I suspect it would have been all-too tempting to simply conjure up Shadow Wars II: Electric Boogaloo.

Perhaps another good example stems back to the Perry Rhodan books I used to read when I was a kid. (I recently picked up a run on eBay and read them again; they have aged terribly, I fear.) An alien race grants the titular character access to advanced technology, as well as a warning that Earth is threatened from invasion – and the parts I always found most interesting revolved around the expansion of Earth, the upgrades to technology, building the space fleet, and everything connected to that. That the series is still going on, and is now well into four-figure novels, just about says it all; I suspect it is a universe that will never be exceeded in terms of complexity.

I've drifted a long way from the point here, so I will conclude simply by restating my recommendation that you pick up 'Duchess of Terra'; I'd strongly recommend that you read 'The Terran Privateer' first, if you haven't already. Link: http://mybook.to/DuchessTerra