Review: The Fortress in Orion
I’d missed this book in the lineup of new Science Fiction, and honestly hadn’t thought to look, but was reminded about it when the second book in this series showed up in a new batch of books to read. The relatively short page count and the fact that it was only number two in the series prompted me to pick up this book first so that I wouldn’t be ignorant going into number two. As it turns out though, I needn’t have worried overly much. By way of resurrecting an old review method of mine, here is this book in ten words:
Military man and operatives waltz through mission to supplant dictator.
Immediately after reading it, I read the first few chapters of book two, and I’m having a very difficult time believing that the first eight words of that book’s ten-word summary wouldn’t be identical. Setting that opinion aside for now though, here’s the skinny on this one.
THE FORTRESS IN ORION is the first in a new series of books written by Mike Resnick. Apparently Pyr had enjoyed the ride through the “weird west” books well enough that they signed Resnick on for another row, and this is what came of it.
The setup for the novel is interesting enough. Colonel Nathan Pretorius is lying in a hospital bed, recovering after having narrowly avoided not staying dead during both his most recent military operation and subsequent surgeries to save his life. His superior shows up and gives him the rundown for his next mission despite the fact that Pretorius still has healing to do. The Democracy has been at war with an alien coalition for decades now, and there’s finally a means to end it. Somehow, they’ve acquired a portion of the coalition leader’s DNA. They replicated an exact copy of him two years ago, and he’s been training to take the place of the real alien leader ever since. Pretorius’s job (should he choose to accept it–har-har), is to replace the real alien leader with the much-friendlier clone and get out without being noticed.
If you’ve read Mike Resnick before then you know exactly what to expect from the story. It’s told mostly through dialogue, contains a large amount of corny humor, and is very low on the scale of complication. Scenes move from one planet to the next, each bringing another member to the team or anther piece of information, relevant or not. Characterization is almost nonexistent. What little characterization present is contained in a single scene where everyone is sitting around a table asking each other, “So, why did you come on this mission?” Ah, motivation in a bottle. How neat and tidy it all is. This was all pretty much on par with what I’d seen from Resnick before though. No surprises for me.
But the content of the story. Ugh. That’s a different situation entirely. Actual science is on the level of wish-fulfillment. Pretorius’s computer is a perfect example of that. Any question he has, that thing has the answer–no matter how esoteric or far-ranging the data might be. Description of the character’s surrounding comes meagre to none. Multiple characters, multiple times, say how bored they are. Never a good sign. They spend hours and hours passing time doing nothing while they wait for something to happen. Multiple times the team asks Pretorius what the plan is, and he says that he’s working on it or that he doesn’t want to say right now. Eventually they get tired of it and start snapping back at him. Surprise. Then, when they’re finally on the planet where they’re going to pull the switcharoo, instead of getting the least bit actiony like I expected it might, there’s only a lot more talking to robots to get them to tote the group around everywhere and allow them to complete the mission. Boooorrrring!
I’d be surprised if fans of Resnick’s books even like this one. It was completely empty and lacked any kind of possible soul. The cover quote says, “This is space opera at its best.” I can’t help but disagree in every way. It’s nothing like the best of anything, and finishing it pretty much made the chances of me picking up the sequel any time soon plummet straight into the basement of possibility.
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: A moderate amount of strong swearing
- Violence: A couple individuals are killed, but violence is avoided for the most part
- Sex: None