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You know, when I selected Out of the Dark at my local library, I thought, Hey, this looks kinda cool. It looks like the "World War," series, which I like, and seems to have the "Humanity: Fuck Yeah!" message that I do so enjoy. Call me old fashioned, but I happen to like seeing self-righteous jerks get knocked off their high horse (I'm also a fan of the tropes Screw You Elves and Screw Destiny).
And you know what? I was right. It was basically World War in a modern setting, and the big, bad puppy aliens were essentially a fuzzy version of The Race. Humanity was indeed, "Fuck Yeah," and though we weren't the biggest, baddest dudes on the block, we were clearly getting there, and were about to explode onto the galactic scene as soon as we could get over that pesky "Not having a spaceship, FTL, artificial gravity, etc, etc, etc."
I'm not saying that this was a good story, though. The characters of Weber's self-insert family/commune were bland and uninteresting, and most of the story was fairly predictable. But then again, so is a lot of military sci-fi that I've read. We don't read that for the story, or the characters, we read it for the Dakka, for the awesome battles, sweet ships, to turn our brains off and just go with the explosions.
Until the twist, which I felt subverted the entire point of the book. The purpose of books like World War and Out Of The Dark is that, well, it shows that humanity is badass on its own. Sure, we don't have antigrav or Applied Phlebotinum, but we're still pretty cool.
Vampires. Led by Count Dracula. And they save the day.
I will freely admit that vampires are a bit of a Berserk Button for me, and that's part of the reason I don't like this book, but I feel it totally inverted the message of most of the book, which is that we're here, we're a race of badasses, we should be taken seriously. And then they ride in and save the day.
I'm sorry, but I was not pleased at all.
Hey now, don't hate on vampires just because the predominant type recently has been tragic romantic figures. Most vampires stories have them as legitimate badasses, and this was one of those. The thing is, Weber being a realist means that he eventually had to settle for one key fact in all alien invasion stories - it eventually doesn't matter what you do on the ground when they can hit you from orbit if they wish to, and there's nothing we can do about that; and indeed, that's what the aliens are about to do at the end, leave and bombard the planet until the surface is ashes. Most stories ignore it or handwave it away, Weber brought in vampires, which if anything highlights the issue and the ridiculousness of not addressing it.
Excuse me for being a vulgar jerk.
Sithking Zero's review pretty accurately sums up the frustration I felt when finishing the book. I'd been willing to play along with the Humans Are Warriors bit because I'd been prepared for it by the name on the cover. The gun porn and loving description of muzzle velocities and ballistics data was over the top, but again, typical Weber stuff. But "TA DA! DRACULA!" snapped me out of my Willing Suspension Of Disbelief.
[Let's pretend that guy never happened.]
Yeah, I might by that whole "orbital bombardment equals victory bit, but he has several plausible setups that he just didn't exploit.
He notes that all surface ships are destroyed. What about the nuclear subs of the world.
Puppy tech is stated outright to be excruciatingly flawed when compared to doctrine. So I think a few nukes into their ships would have been a good way out. They'd have never seen it coming (they might know they're there, but you can't drop rocks in an ocean and expect to hit a minnow.
Even if you disregard that though. If they had blown up a few bases that might make the shuttle recall happen. They could sneak aboard and kill the pilots and all they would have to do is take over one dreadnought.
It just had to be ooh vampires, and it was ham-fisted move that you wouldn't expect from a veteran author of science fiction. There's nothing saying regular humans couldn't have pulled off something close to what Vlad the Impossible did. It was banal.
Personally, this was my first ever Weber book, and I'm not reading more of his work. The characters were so one-note I was losing track of which military person was where. In fact they were so interchangeable that I didn't know which base was initially being vamped. The pacing was wonky. It really shows that it was just a stretched-out short story.
Funnily enough, I actually despise "Humanity, Fuck Yeah" stories. To me, it's just Our Elves Are Better, but with a slightly different race.
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