Claws that Catch (Looking Glass, Book 4)
by John Ringo & Travis S. Taylor
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Steve Sawicki
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416555872
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
This is the fourth book in this series, which does not have a series name yet but should probably be called "The Looking Glass" Series after the first book and the Lewis Carrol references which seem to be driving the titles. This is the third book in the series that revolves around the new space navy (the single ship the Vorpal Blade) created to counter the future assault of the Dreen, an expansion minded race that utilizes organic engineering to produce aggressive assault beings and ships dedicated to taking over everything.
The Earth is on their list and rather than sit around and wait, the crew of the Vorpal Blade is going out and looking for something with which to defeat them. Of course it's not quite that easy since this is the first real space ship the Earth has ever had and it's based on the design of a submarine and the crew has no training and it's full of alien technology that no one really understands, including some of the aliens on board and there's a pretty serious culture clash between the way the military runs things and the way things need to be run. Imagine sort of a McHales Navy in space, where things get done, but not quite according to the book or always in ways that can be planned for.
I've enjoyed all of these books. Ringo and Taylor present a case of characters that represent the military not so much as they are but as we would have hoped that SF had imagined them fifty years ago. Instead of having one discipline overbear all others because of the authors beliefs, they've managed to create a synergistic future where each discipline presents its best and the whole thing comes together in a funny, cohesive, inspiring way. If there was ever a defining series to define science fantasy this would be it. It's got great aliens, great adventures, great characters and interesting puzzles that keep the whole thing moving forward at a breakneck pace. Even if it occasionally slips into silliness it's not for very long and it's all still amusing.
This is great stuff, too good to pass up and filling a genre niche that has been empty since Keith Laumer stopped writing. Ringo and Taylor manage to mix just the right amount of science, humor, military procedure, combat and narrative to produce an entertaining masterpiece. The characters come to life and it will be far too long before the next book hits the stands. Most highly recommended.