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Citadel: Troy Rising II by John Ringo
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Ernest Lilley
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439134009
Date: 04 January 2011 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Our review of Live Free or Die / Show Official Info /

John Ringo's Deathstar Space Opera continues in Citadel: Troy Rising II with a look at what it takes to make a "two trillion ton nickel-iron" asteroid into a battle-station able to guard the hyper-spatial gate to the solar system. In the first book, Live Free Or Die Tyler Vernon, ex SF author and the richest man in the solar system, thanks to some shrewd Yankee trading (except that he's actually a rebel), built a solar mining array and used it to transform a big freaking rock into Earth's own death-star--Troy. Now, with our original conquerors pushed back, we're in a race to make Troy fully operational before bigger, badder nasties decide to poke their scaly noses in where they don't belong.

Citadel follows Dana "Comet" Parker, a gifted Navy recruit, and Paul "Butch" Allen, a civilian welder, below decks to reveal the complexity of warfare in space, making this as much Space Operations as Space Opera. Either way, it's another fun ride by John Ringo.

The storyline in Citadel: Troy Rising II picks up about where book one, Live Free Or Die left off, after the only partly operational battle-station Troy, had sliced and diced an entire Horvath fleet, winning Earth's freedom from their overbearing overlords, who'd showed up as soon as the Glatu (not a bad bunch of aliens, but not much on taking responsibility) dropped off a hyper-spatial gate, putting Earth, on the galactic map. The Horvath had cleverly persuaded us ("Nice planet, pity if something happened to it.") to pay them tribute in mineral rights, but since they can't eat our food, they didn't say anything about our foodstuffs. Wherein lies a tale, told in the first book, which I recommend. Not that it should keep you from jumping in here.

In fact, this book only deals with the main character of the first book occasionally, focusing instead on a pair of recruits heading to Troy. The first, Dana Parker, walked away from the burning ruins of LA after it had been taken out by the Horvath, to make their point. Now twenty years later, she's signing up with the (Space) Navy and heading off to become a junior engineer on Troy. She'll do fine at that, but she also discovers that her first, best destiny is as shuttle pilot (coxswain). She's cute, short, blond and very focused. Starbuck without the chip on her shoulder.

Then there's Paul "Butch" Allen, who didn't do so well in school, except for math, is dead sure he doesn't want to be in the military, but learned welding and mechanics at his daddy's knee. Apollo Corporation, Tyler's space construction and operations company, takes him on and trains him to do laser welding in space, where the hazards include dealing with the roughnecks on the crew, who don't want you if you can't take it.

You'd think that this was a collision story, where Dana and Butch wind up finding each other, and they may yet, but more likely they'll just keep bouncing off each other periodically while the author uses them to explore different sides of the coin.

The big story they're part of is the completion of Troy, but if one battle-station is good, two would be better, so there's another station being built in the solar system as well. And, knowing that the next bad guys in line are the Rangora, a tougher, smarter bunch than the last, we're in a hurry to get things done.

The big problem we've got is that speed means fuel, and the Rangora just stomped on our allies and Helium 3 suppliers, the Glatu. Out of gas and with the enemy getting ready to come through the gate, Earth's in a pickle. Or would be if it weren't for Tyler's Yankee ingenuity (Oh, wait...I keep forgetting that he was only living in New England in the first book...he's a rebel, and proud of it.)

The only downside of the novel, is that you probably can't write about space operations without doing a lot of exposition. That's okay by me, because I learn a lot from exposition, and reading fiction is a painless way to learn. If you're knowledge adverse, go ahead and zip through the discussion of vacuum welding technique to get to the next plot point. If you're plot adverse, go ahead and zip to the end of the book to get to the deep philosophical message. If you miss it, repeat as many times as needed.

If you like this, or this sort of stuff, you might try David Brin's excellent classic Startide Rising which has a different take on our entry into galactic civilization, but one just as engaging. John Ringo makes no bones about not trying to make his aliens inscrutable, but rather to let them stand in for human enemies and empires, but if you read the two books, I think you'll find that really that's what always happens, even when when you're writing about gene enhanced dolphins and chimps, as Brin does.

Two other authors that I'm fond of, but which lie closer to the action/adventure core of Ringo's work, are Randy LaLonde and Thomas DePrima, both available on Amazon, both self-published, and both more fun that a barrel of space-pirates. DePrima's A Galaxy Beyond features both a short blond heroine and asteroid space bases. Though she's generally in the business of blowing them up. LaLonde's Spinward series is more classic space dreadnought fiction, and he's just rewritten the first book to clean up what he perceived as clunky writing. He also has a cute short blond Navy engineer in his story, making me wonder if short blonds are the new red headed SF heroine?.

Unless you think quality requires stuffiness you'll enjoy Citadel and its kin a lot. Not that there isn't a time and place for that sort of thing, but as far as John Ringo is concerned, that time and place doesn't exist in a universe where rude men must stand on the borders to protect those of us who stayed home.

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