East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Council Wars)
by John Ringo
Review by Mel Jacob
Baen Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416555186
Date: 26 December 2007 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
[Editor's Note: This review originally ran in our May 2006 issue.]
The fourth Ringo novel in the futuristic Council War series, which began with There Will Be Dragons and continued in Emerald Seas and Against the Tide, takes his one-handed hero Herzer Herrick into space where he must fight in zero gravity to save the woman he loves and their world. The war between the two factions that caused the Fall, the disintegration of the world they had known, continues. This series blends fantasy abetted and supported by AI and science into a rich world. The role of "Mother", the AI that controls much of the world, remains ambiguous.
Those already familiar with the series will meet new and old friends. Celine Reinshafen, the Dr. Frankenstein/Dr. Death of New Destiny, develops new monsters and modifies old friends into the Changed with enhanced powers and the goal to kill and destroy. Council members Edmund Talbot, Megan Travante, Reyes Cho, and Chansa Mulengela reappear.
Ringo starts by skewering present politics through a sharp description of the political process in the future. Powerbrokers exert their all to gain advantage.
Herzer, as always, charms all the women and leaves them panting, but his fiancée Megan, still traumatized by her captivity in a harem in a previous book, remains unable to indulge in sex. Ever the gentleman, Herzer also abstains, to the regret of all the other women.
A crisis arises when the Icarus team, training to capture a space tanker filled with fuel critical to the continued operation of the power plants on Earth, is destroyed. Herzer and his Megan are thrown into the breech. With technology and knowledge in short supply, he assembles crews to accomplish the task. He must plan to fight in an environment he has never experienced and where old skills won't work.
He pushes himself and the handpicked teams to their limits, desperate to gain any advantage possible. The space suits pose many problems. The title reflects the position of certain features on the space tanker.
Some of the extensive details, especially during the training phases, may represent overkill. However, the rich cast of characters, sustained suspense, and the story goal hold the reader's interest.
The teams must ride the automatic shuttles sent to Earth by the tanker on their return trips and hope to gain the edge needed to defeat New Destiny. If they can't capture the tanker, they must crash it into the moon. Shuttle assignments add more obstacles and one team of fighters must be left behind. Another team will land among New Destiny shuttles, which places the crew in mortal danger. Herzer must choose who lives and who will almost certainly die.
Battle scenes are lively, but even more interesting is the suspense Ringo creates with the various tasks the engineers and computer experts must accomplish. Rapid cuts between Herzer's teams and New Destiny's also add suspense and keep the reader turning pages. Before the end, Ringo lays a number of threads that provide opportunity for the saga to continue.