Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review: Passage at Arms

Passage At Arms is Glen Cook's submarines in space novel. It follows the story of an ex-military“embedded-reporter” attached to a Climber unit in a war. The Climber is commanded by his former officer school classmate, and he finds himself resented for taking up a useless space on the climber, in addition to another useless experimental weapon thatt was fitted onto the ship for a special mission.

In a typical action adventure story written by a lesser writer, the narrator will prove himself to be a superior human being, able to make use of his useless weapon in unprecedented ways against the vce enemy. This being Glen Cook, however, we get a very well told submarine tale, with more than a couple of surprises in store, but nothing as trite as what you would expect from the set-up.

Nevertheless, this is early Glen Cook, and those who are used to later Glen Cook should be aware that you can see Cook polishing his narrative style in this novel for his later, greater works, such as the Black Company series. The prose is sparse and spare, very reflective of a former military officer who's used to saying little with few words. Sentence fragments effectively render the moods of the men and machines, and little pieces of narratives provide what I consider really well written vignettes of the military and its situation.

If I have any criticism of the novel, it's that the author also had a very spare approach to plot and character—nearly everyone was a stereotype, and you're expected to have sympathy for the crew out of proximity without any real characterization being provided. Nevertheless, the book is recommended, at the very least as an airplane novel.
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