The Dark Wing by Walter H. Hunt
List Price: $27.95

Hardcover - 491 pages (December, 2001) 
Tor; ISBN: 076530113X
Review by Bruce Wallace
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My initial impression of The Dark Wing was that it was a just another flashy space opera.  Later I thought it was just another dark novel about the genocide of aliens. Still later I decided it was a splendid depiction of the two sides of the Tao told in a Sci-Fi venue. Finally, I realized that this brilliant first novel was in fact all three and more.

Beginning with a surprise attack by the alien Zor, the story takes off  like a rocket. The attack re-ignites an intergalactic war with the human Solar Empire which lays the groundwork for the holy war that follows. A retired officer, Ivan Hector Charles Marias who claims to have in-depth knowledge of the Zor is brought back to lead the fight. He quickly assembles his forces and blasts off determined to bring the fight to the home worlds of the enemy. 

Determined to make this the last war humanity would have to fight the newly empowered admiral begins to wage the war in a manner which his officers and indeed most of the rest of humanity believe constitutes genocide.  Among the hue and cry from such ancient human rights organizations as the Red Cross and the slightly updated Amnesty Interstellar there are soon orders for the admiral to surrender his command and return for court-martial. The admiral instead begins an even more vigorous prosecution of the war.

The novel progresses through a few more of bloody battles until the assault on the Zor naval base A'anenu changes everything. A Zor is captured alive during the battle and a crewmember undergoes a strange transformation on the base, which allows him to experience the mystical dreams of the Zor.  Additionally he gains the ability to understand their speech and the significance of certain gestures that the Zor make. 

This marks a substantial turning point in the novel, which up to this point although filled with wonderfully drawn characters, intrigue and fast paced action was proving to be just another military SF novel. From this point on the book takes on an almost Zen-like tone as we meet the Zor for the first time and begin to literally see through their eyes. Soon we learn that there is a Bright Wing to offset the Dark Wing and as the story progresses we begin to see the significance of these counter balancing forces.

At the end I found I had read a much different tale then I had expected. This fast paced novel is an easy surface read. I'm sure that if you read for the space battles alone you will be pleased. But if you settle down and read it a bit more carefully you will appreciate it for the complex novel that it is. I heartily congratulate first time author Walter H. Hunt and wish him all the success he deserves. 

2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu  
020303el/sa