Review: Trial By Fire

Trial By Fire (Charles E. Gannon, Baen) is the sort of book that divides those who notice it into two parts. One group will sneer “Yard goods from Baen, yet another space opera full of stuff blowing up”; the other will nod and smile and say “Good clean fun, I’ll take it.”

I’m cheerfully in the second group, myself. But I do have standards. Done badly, this sort of thing is just boring and derivative button-pushing, a sort of male-targeted analog of formula romances. Done well, it’s a fun ride with enough elements of puzzle story and sense of wonder to make it respectable SF even if it doesn’t aspire to the heights of conceptual breakthrough found in the best of the genre.

This particular book is the second in a sequence that I would describe as enjoyable if unexceptional. Much of the furniture is familiar (one of the major alien species is perhaps too much like Alan Dean Foster’s Thranx, and another is fairly generic Proud Warrior Race Guys) but the author knows his way around the battles and action scenes, and some of the reveals in the puzzle side of the plot are genuinely interesting.

Overall, the author earns his money. You’ll want to read the first book, Fire With Fire, before this one. Expect sequels – but if you’re in the target market for this book, you already know you want them.

7 thoughts on “Review: Trial By Fire

  1. I read the first, and despite a couple of suspension of disbelief problems with the protagonist and a structural problem, found it pretty enjoyable.

  2. One thing to note about this book’s Proud Warrior Race Guys is that this seems to be a caste thing, with the ruling caste being the PWRGs and the lesser castes not su much. I don’t know where the author is going with this book but I think that there could be a point where the impact of aliens causes the lower castes to rebel and/or outmigrate and leave the PWRGs on their own.

    I have one complaint with this book, it seems to subscribe to the “Evil Megacorporations” vs “Good Government” trope ( ), which is kind of annoying. Particularly since the evil executives seem to painted as fairly simple cardboard evil executives with no motivations beyond “more money now” and a resulting lack of long term vision that seems somewhat implausible.

    What I really want to see in the sequels is the history that explains the existence and motivations etc. of “Olive guy” (and yes I know we get some of this as a part of the grand finale in this one but I’m leaving it at that to avoid spoilers and because there’s a whole backstory that needs to be explained).

  3. I think that the only book I read about the Sci-fi is “El principito” at the school.

    This comment is for say thanks. It was fun read your page about “How to become a hacker”.

    The most funny part was:
    Q: I’m having problems with my Windows software. Will you help me?
    A: Yes. Go to a DOS prompt and type “format c:”. Any problems you are experiencing will cease within a few minutes

    If you got time e-mail me, I want to show you my first webpage.

    Grettings from El Salvador.

  4. Pingback:

    Vote -1 Vote +1Trial by Fire (Tales of Terran Republic) | Science Book a Day

  5. I’d say you’re pretty much right on the mark. For me, the books’ shortcoming has nothing to do with plot or character, both of which are fairly well worn furniture, as you say. Not a bad thing, since a comfy chair is still a comfy chair. To me Charles’ shortcoming is that he did his homework, did it very well, and then insisted on standing in front of the class to explain it all.

    Seriously, about 75% of this book is exposition. I know he thinks he’s just taking pains to let us know he gets the logistics, politics, and space-war bits, but he freaking talks them to death. In this genre, it’s especially appropriate to ask for “a little less talk, and a lot more action.”

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