With the Lightnings – David Drake

I started re-reading some of my favorite SF books, perhaps triggered by H. Beam Piper on the Kindle.  This book is the first in the Lt. Leary series.  It is perhaps best described as “Aubrey and Maturin in Space”, but Drake puts his own twist from there.

I’ll go into the similarities between the start of this book and Patrick O’Brien’s  “Master and Commander”.  Two lead characters meet in a foreign port. One is a junior naval officer, destined for great things. The other is a friendless outsider.  The first meeting results in a challenge, but the two make up and become great friends. The outsider joins the officer as a guest on his ship, and becomes a spy.  One of the two is a dedicated naturalist.  One is an expert ship handler.

Both Drake and O’Brien use historical events as a base to add depth to their world.  O’Brien used reports of ship battles.  Drake uses historical situations to block out the situations.  In later books he even tells you what they were.

The Republic of Cinnabar is Leary’s home, and they are temporarily at peace with their enemy, the Alliance.  Cinnabar is modeled on the Roman Republic.  Leary’s father was the head of state when a plot was uncovered to betray the Republic. In the executions, Adele Mundy, expert librarian, had her entire family executed.  She was off world, and survived.  She is working on planet Kostroma and meets Leary, but the Alliance sponsors a coup to take over the planet.  Leary and Mundy must join up to avoid capture and defeat the coup.

Drake is a veteran, and makes his worlds gritty and realistic to the Nth degree. Guns get hot and burn the users, bodies don’t vanish like soap bubbles when shot, and the people around vary from the not-nice to the really-really-bad.  But it does feel real.

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