If you are new to SciFi and Fantasy but have a Kindle or other eReader a great resource to try out is the Baen Free Library.  While you won’t get access to a whole series by any one author, what you will get is an awesome introduction to some of the most thrilling and exciting SciFi and Fantasy series’ currently in print.

You’ll be able to read some of John Ringo‘s Posleen saga and you’ll be introduced to David Weber and his unbeatable character Honor Harrington.  You’ll get access to some great alternative history stories (1632 by Eric Flint) and swashbuckling sword and sorcery also!  You’ll also find a host of other stories by authors that you might not normally have tried, but you will quite quickly find yourself liking and enjoying!

 

Books are available in a multitude of different formats – including the most popular .epub and .mobi (Kindle format) – and you can also download books to read on your local computer too or even to print off!  They really couldn’t make it easier and considering each of these books sell for almost $6-$9 retail, you’re saving yourself literally hundreds using the Baen Free Library.

The Baen Free Library might not be here forever so enjoy it while its available and before its gone for good!  After all – its not too often that you actually get something worthwhile for free!

Check out the Baen Free Library – you will not be disappointed as while there might be other free book repositories out there, there aren’t many that are focused on SciFi and Fantasy and that are supported by the author’s to the extent that the Baen Library is.

I won’t reiterate or restate all the points in minutiae that Eric Flint (“First Librarian”) has made, but suffice it to say that in essence he is 100% correct.

Reading a series on here will NOT detract from book sales as any SciFi buff (or reader of any genre to be honest) will tell you … owning a book that you like has a delicious pleasure all its own!  When you find that great series, you want to obtain the rest of them and once you do you need to complete the series.

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The Shiva Option
The Shiva Option (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hopefully you have had the joyous pleasure of playing the old PC based space strategy game – Master of Orion and its successors … otherwise known as MOO I – MOO III?  If not you are really missing out on something really enjoyable and in a similar fashion to Civilization (and its successors) a game that truly makes you experience the agony of the “just one more turn” syndrome!

If you have enjoyed these games though, you will find that The Shiva Option brings back some extremely fond memories and recollections.  The whole space combat experience and the obvious inclusion of the specified races such as the Terrans and Orions is very similar to the races mentioned in that game.  Now while there are some (many) similarities – The Shiva Option is actually based on another game entirely called Starfire which was a surprise to me.

While I enjoyed this book primarily because of its similarity to a game (as mentioned above), for that same reason it is quite likely that someone else will be turned off as this book very much reads like a historical treatise and an exposition of hundreds of different small scale military campaigns in the course of the war against the bugs.   A sequel to “In Death Ground” – by the same writing team, the Grand Alliance of Terrans, Orions, Gorm and Ophuichi has suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Bugs during the Pesthouse Campaign. Many senior military commanders have been lost, along with the bulk of the Terran Federation pre-war fleet and it is in this perilous universe that The Shiva Option takes place.

Unable to communicate with the Bugs and locked in a war of mutual annihilation, the Grand Alliance realises that the war has become a fight for the survival of their species, and for the first time since their war with the Rigelians, they invoke Directive 18 – which comes to be knows and the “Shiva Option”.

The story progresses in a fairly standard pattern, with members of the Alliance stumbling across one of the five Bug Home Hives, building up an overwhelming force of ships and personal and then proceeding towards its destruction.  The bugs throw everything they have in its defense, and just when it looks like they might prevail, the humans (or, less commonly Orions) come up with something that turns the tables and enables them to apply the Shiva Option.  There is some character growth and development, but unfortunately most of the primary characters (the Admirals) are portrayed as almost “forces of nature” and while the storyline of the pilot is good it is too limited to really grab you.  Surprisingly, the “thoughts” of the bugs are quite possibly the most interesting and while the under reaction in certain situations is annoying “listening” to what they are planning and seeing the reactions from the Alliance members is cool!

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds

Quotation from the Bhagavad Gita famously quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer upon witnessing the detonation of the first atomic bomb.

The actual battles and campaigns are really well written and interesting, but after a while a count of the number of ships damaged and destroyed starts to pale, as there is no one actually on those boats that we care about or even know for that matter!  However, if this was a game that was played out and then written up, I would have loved to have seen it as  the fleet sizes  in some of these battles was truly awe inspiring.

Once the members of the Star Union  actually join up with the Grand Alliance forces – their decision to actually take the battle to the bugs on their colonized planets finally brings home some sense of reality and scope to the story and while it is probably not realistic for a space faring civilization to become a non-intelligent food source in only 1-2 generations, the care that members of the Star Union have for their cousins is very well portrayed.

 

I mentioned in a previous post the Honor Harrington series of books by David Weber, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually spoken about them in any depth, so I thought I’d do so now. The first book in the Honorverse is called On Basilisk Station and it is available for free from the Baen eBook Library and is definitely worth a download if you haven’t already read it.

Weber has written quite a few series and books now with strong female characters (take his Safehold series for example) but Honor is definitely one of his strongest and most well developed.

THE BASIC STORY:

Honor Harrington takes on the command of a new warship – the Fearless. This ship completely gutted of its normal complement of offensive weapons is rebuilt as a test bed for new weaponry based on the thoughts and insights of armchair admirals. Successful in its first war-game trial it is quickly humiliated by the remainder of the fleet and sent in disgrace to Basilisk Station, a low status drudge assigned that mostly involves checking cargoes for contraband.

Arriving at Basilisk Station, Honor is left in charge by a malicious superior officer who hopes that she will fail, however Honor believes in upholding the trues values of the Manticorian naval tradition and manages to motivate her crew to follow her example.

Finding quick success in a part of space that had previously been significantly corrupt, Honor makes waves both at home and on Haven, for Haven had been counting on the sloppiness of the previous Commander to make their eventual invasion of Medusa successful. However it is not only the Havenites that Honor is causing problems with. Her honesty and integrity is also impacting her own people as she brings fines against corrupt traders and merchants. Unfortunately this does not earn Honor a lot of friends!

From Amazon:

On Basilisk Station (or “HH1” as it’s known to the faithful) is the first installment in David Weber’s cult hit Honor Harrington series, which has charmed the socks off schoolgirls and sailors alike. Honor–the heroine of this fast-paced, addictive space opera–is a polished, plucky bulldog of a naval officer, part Horatio Hornblower, part Miles Vorkosigan, part Captain Janeway, and with a razor-clawed telepathic cat thrown over her shoulder for good measure.

The series’ kickoff puts a giddy Commander Harrington at the helm of her first serious starship, the HMS Fearless. But her excitement quickly fades–political maneuvering by top brass in the Manticoran navy has left her light cruiser outfitted with a half-baked experimental weapons system. Against all odds (just the way Honor likes it), she still manages a clever coup in tactical war games, a feat that earns her accolades–and enemies. The politicians she’s offended banish her to a galactic backwater, Basilisk Station. But that outpost soon proves to be a powder keg, and it’s up to Harrington and the Fearless crew to thwart the aggressive plans of the Haven Republic.

 

SOME DETAILS:

The biggest inspiration for this series set far in the future is surprisingly from the past – David Weber has (admittedly) taken some key elements and themes of his story from the Horatio Hornblower and while this isn’t simply a case of Hornblower with boobs, some similarities are glaringly obvious.

Honor isn’t just a clone of Hornblower however. As mentioned previously there are similarities, but she is a well developed character in her own right and one that you can believe in and whose motivations and actions are clear. While Honor is presented as a very intelligent and young woman, in actually due to anti-aging treatments available in the Honorverse, she is actually what we would consider middle aged. As such her command of a warship makes somewhat more sense.

However while Honor has similarities to Hornblower, David Weber provides a significant amount of detail about Hyperspace, space battles, shielding, missiles, governments etc… one thing definitely not lacking is the amount of detail! In fact, that is probably the only major fault I’d have with this book – it sometimes tends to drag as he expounds on science and how it impacts everything. Not a major complaint, but one that should be noted. By contrast however one huge plus is that he doesn’t bore you with the details for those items that have no bearing – for example the whole naming convention, Basilisk & Medusa. Many authors – especially those just starting out – would feel the need to explain everything but I was glad to see that Weber didn’t feel this was necessary.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Overall a really good and enjoyable read and one that will keep you interested and occupied. The space battle (I would have liked more!) was really well written and described and while the stupidity of politicians was perhaps a bit forced, it unfortunately makes way too much sense. Anyone that enjoys Space Opera will definitely want to have this on their bookshelf.

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