Shadows of Annihilation, a review


BLUF: The best of the Black Chamber series.

Everyone knows that I dig S.M. Stirling’s work. I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything he has produced, and most of it is amazing.

Of course I jumped on it when I originally read the premise of his new trilogy; a Great War alternate history combined with his writing. A sure-fire recipe for success, really.

So why did it take me two whole months after release to read and review “Shadows of Annihilation?

Well, I’m not going to launch into stupid excuses or mealy-mouthed explanations. I’ll just say I’ve been subject to some heavy stressors; this does not make me unique in this year of our Lord 2020. In fact, I’d say that most of us have been mildly freaked out lately.

It’s been weird; I haven’t been able to read or watch TV.

I have been able to write or work.

So an Australian friend pointed out what should have been obvious: treat reading like work. So I did, and I am pleased to say that it’s time to do this review.

Well, what didn’t I like about this book?

Not much. It was fun.

What did I like?

A lot. I’ll touch upon a few things.

Stirling did a lot of research in this book; he beats me like a stepchild in that regard. But he doesn’t get as far into the weeds as Michener; that can get old. No, the cake is fairly well leavened. Just enough.

The pacing was excellent; I didn’t have a feeling of dead spots or places where I had to struggle through. The book did what it should. It hooked the reader at the beginning and accelerated through to the end.

Have I mentioned that Stirling books never fail to make me hungry? They always do. He describes food in loving detail; this book reminded me in places of a favorite of mine, Conquistador. There were so many delicious sounding, utterly exotic dishes named. I could only hope to try one-quarter of them.

This book didn’t have implausible scenes. I thought book two, “Theater of Spies,” had too many of those. Now, I can suspend disbelief as well as the next fellow, but I do like a spoonful of realism with my science fiction. I thought Mr. Stirling did a nice job with the concluding chapter of this series.

Finally, Stirling did a really nice job of fleshing out his characters. The antagonist Horst wasn’t just some SS recast, he was a flawed man doing his best for his people and country, just like our protagonist, Luz and her girlfriend, Ciara.

This series is worth checking out. If you haven’t read the last book, do so.

It’ll make you wish that TR, instead of the most-unimpressive Taft, had gotten another shot at the presidency. But hey, unimpressive presidents happen.

Not everyone can be a Roosevelt.

Read Stirling’s latest and shake your head at what could have been.

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