Monday, 15 November 2010

Out of the Dark (David Weber)

Out of the Dark
-David Weber

WARNING: Major Spoilers!

I’m going to be up-front about this. I found Out of the Dark to be a huge disappointment. This is all the more galling when David Weber is the genius who wrote such books as Mutineer’s Moon, On Basilisk Station, The Honour of the Queen and many others. I love Weber’s science-fiction, but I have never been so keen on his fantasy. This book shows all of David Weber’s weaknesses and few of his strengths. Worst of all, it ends with a Deus Ex Machina that came right out of left field.

Anyway…back when the English were fighting the French, Earth was visited by a scoutship from the Hegemony, an alien federation composed of (mostly) vegetarian alien races. The aliens, properly horrified at human vileness, eventually assigned the conquest of Earth to a meat-eating race called the Shongairi. The Shongairi, who have their own plans to eventually overthrow their superiors, decide that humans would make a perfect slave race and launch the invasion. Unluckily for them, the human race has advanced far faster than they believed possible and the world they are invading is the modern-day Earth. (Shades of Harry Turtledove’s WorldWar here.)

The aliens attack the Earth, starting their invasion with a massive bombardment that – just incidentally – kills off everyone who can offer to surrender. After a series of battles between organised human forces and the alien invaders – to be fair, those battles, particularly the F-22 encounters with the enemy, are very good – the fighting degenerates into an insurgency against an alien force. While the Shongairi struggle desperately to understand why the human race is just so damn weird, the humans keep pressing their attacks. The Shongairi are finally driven to the point where they retreat from the planet and intend to bombard the human race out of existence, only to discover that their ships have been boarded by…vampires! The poor aliens don’t stand a chance.

I would have found the idea much more believable if the vampires had been mentioned right from the start. The possibilities of a secret other race living on Earth are endless, if handled properly. David Weber could have done it very well, yet instead we get the vampires suddenly appearing and kicking butt.

That isn’t the only problem in the book. David Weber has a habit of including massive – and I mean massive – infodumps in his books. In most books, that is at least kept reasonably relevant to the plot. Here, the vast mountain of information is often unrelated to the plot. For example, there is a large section of the book based on how the survivalists created their secret lair. Later, the book digresses into how determined the women survivalists are to keep their children safe and how they would lay down their lives in order to save them. All very interesting, yet the survivalists aren’t even attacked!

This book really needed a rewrite. It came across as clunky. I think it would have worked better if it had been expanded into a WorldWar-sized series or perhaps condensed into a neater plot. There are true moments of greatness in this book, yet they fit together poorly.

Overall, it’s worth a read, but only in paperback.

(Sample chapters can be found here -