by John Ringo
Review by Dave Goldfeder
Baen HCVR ISBN/ITEM#: 0743436040
Date: 01 May 2003 List Price 25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
John Ringo has had interesting timing with his writing career and his latest book, Hells Faire, reflects it. Hellís Faire is the fourth book in a trilogy. This is not a disparagement but a statement of fact. Mr. Ringo was writing the third and ďfinalĒ book of the trilogy, When the Devil Dances, on September 11, 2001. After that day, writing a book describing a brutal war on American soil was not as pleasant as it had been. In addition, a good bit of energy was diverted into a new career as an opinion columnist and television commentator. The net result is that publishing deadlines loomed and When the Devil Dances was cut short and ended just before the climactic battle. After sufficient time had passed and other commitments met, he returned to Mike OíNeillís story. The final bit of interesting timing is that as I review this story of war on American soil, our troops are fighting in Iraq. I donít know if Ringoís timing is good or bad, but it is interesting. Spoiler Warning: If you're a fan of Mil SF, and you must be or you would have stopped reading by now, hopefully you've read the previous books in this series, specifically Gust Front and When the Devil Dances. If not, stop now and read them. If you read them and didnít like them, donít bother with this one. This book is effectively the last part of When the Devil Dances. Itís more of the same and there are only limited efforts at explaining the back-story.
When last we left our hero, Earth had been at war for 5 years. The Posleen, vicious omnivorous centaurs, had invaded Earth and overrun most of it. Only the US survives in any meaningful way behind defensive works in the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. Mike OíNeill is the most successful commander on the planet and his unit is the most effective. One result of this is they have been in combat almost continuously for the last five years and are nearly burnt out. After winning a bloody battle in Rochester, NY they are sent for some R&R in Pennsylvania. Shortly after they arrive the word comes down from on high, the Posleen have broken through the Appalachian defenses and OíNeill is the only one who can stop them and save Earth, most likely at the cost of OíNeill and his unit. The book starts with OíNeill and company on shuttles en route to the battle.
I really enjoyed this book but not everyone will. It is what it is and pretends to be nothing else. This book is military science fiction boiled down to its essence. The book is one long battle with a few breaks for humor and intrigue. The body count racked up in the battle would impress Doc Smith. There isnít a lot of character development but it isnít needed. The character development was in the last two books and theyíre vivid enough. Itís not literature but it is good story telling.
Mr. Ringo answers a lot of questions raised in previous books but not all of them. He leaves enough to plant the seeds for the next series in this universe. My main criticism is that the author tends to in-jokes. He does them reasonably well but he should be careful in the future. I can forgive him, but then I get most of them.