Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: A Mighty Fortress by David Weber

A Mighty Fortress is the fourth book in David Weber's Safehold series. The premise for the series in definitely intriguing: after a devastating space battle with an alien race, the last vestiges of human civilization form a colony and their leaders alter memories to create devotion to a religion that glorifies those leaders, demonizes their political enemies, and holds the colony at a low technological level. Nine hundred years later, an android body containing the mind of one of the original crew "wakes up" and starts a chain of events leading to innovation and change, and a religious reform movement that leads to a split in the church and the beginnings of Holy War.

This book is lighter on physical action than its predecessors but makes up for it with a high volume of political intrigue. Once again Weber has created a multitude of sub plots each with their own various political subtleties. At first some of the side plots seem unconnected to the main action but eventually everything falls into place.

One of the things that make David Weber's books so stunning is their epic battle scenes and even though he's switched from space battles to wet navy battles the battle scenes are still exquisitely detailed and realistic. The descriptions of the production process and the science behind the naval technology can get to be too much but the actual implementation of the technology makes it worth the heavy descriptions.

One of the things that is beginning to bother me about this series is the naming of the characters. The character names are often spelled in the most complicated rendition of the phonetic spelling possible. At first it was an interesting novelty but as time passed it just became distracting because every time a new character was introduced I had to pause to figure out what the standard equivalent of the name was. It definitely lead to interruptions in the flow of reading, especially since there are so very many characters involved.

Overall, I really did enjoy A Mighty Fortress. I love the political intrigue that features so strongly and the explorations of how religion molds the way people think and how the church acts as a political machine. I do feel that with the large number of character and political plots, some of the deeper character relationships get lost in the shuffle and that is unfortunate because it makes it harder to connect with the characters in this book. This book is a solid addition to the series (though not as good as the other three books) and leaves us set-up for a more action heavy fifth book.

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