Citadel by John Ringo (2011)

April 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm (military SF, science fiction)

So I peered into the Bag o’ Library Books and noticed the new John Ringo that I’d passed up a few minutes before.  I looked at my spouse:  “You got the John Ringo?”

“Sure,” he said.  “Why not?”

“I’ve read some of his stuff.  It has … explosions.”

He laughed, and I laughed, and later on I read the book, because sometimes explosions are just what a person’s in the mood for.

Actually, you have to wait a while for the explosions in this one, but they do turn up.  This book is a big chewy lump of Golden Age style military SF, with the added bonus of modern gender roles.

Squid-like hostile aliens?  Check.

High-tech friendly/neutral aliens?  Check.  (I think these guys are furry, but I’m not sure; Ringo forgot to describe them for those of us arriving late to the party.)

Lizard-like hostile aliens?  Check.

Key role played by a major techno-entrepreneur?  Check.

U.S.A. leads the way?  Check.

Major world cities bombed into oblivion?  Check.  (Actually, it seems that most of this happened in the first volume, called … wait for it … Live Free or Die, but there is some).

Imported alien technology including artificial gravity, working artificial intelligence, fabricators, and instantaneous travel-gates?  Check, check, check, check.

Humans adapt to and improve on all this incredibly (from alien perspective) fast?  Check.

Gigantic battle station built into an asteroid?  Check.

Human society incomprehensible to aliens?  Check.

Oh, and I almost forgot the huge solar mining/defense system.  Heh.

Mostly, the story follows the rising careers of (1) a brand-new (and highly talented) female Navy engineer/pilot, and (2) a brand-new (and highly talented) male space construction worker.  For plot-following purposes, there are jumps to the points of view of the lizardly aliens, the technological tycoon, and the President of the US.

If you’ve been reading SF for longer than five years, you have read this book before – possibly several times.  This iteration is pretty fun, though.  And there’s noticeably more room for characters in this one, than in some of Ringo’s other work that I’ve read.

I have one complaint about the worldbuilding, though.  Apparently one of the things that happened during or before Live Free or Die was a series of plagues inflicted on the Earth by the enemy.  One of them, either deliberately or as an unanticipated side effect, apparently has the effect of revving up female libido to at least equivalent to that of hormonally-afflicted teenage males.  For some reason, it appears that birth control doesn’t work on them any more, either (unless that’s an oversight by the author … I don’t know, the explanation’s in the earlier book, it seems).   This is seriously weird, and I’m baffled as to why the author thought it was a good idea.  [ETA:  Now that I’ve read Live Free or Die, it makes sense from the enemy’s twisted point of view.]

ALSO, this affliction, and the resultant permanent state of pregnancy/childrearing, appears to be strongly biased toward blonde white women.   So where, I want to know, are all the brown and black American women who would be moving into the vacuum?  All we seem to see are white women who are “of course” pregnant, and white women who are in the military and have had the disease cured.

And why hasn’t the disease been cured across the whole population, I’d like to know?  They can build all this marvelous tech but can’t clean up the genome of the population?  Maybe that’s all in the first book, but it still doesn’t explain why after 17 years the Navy and civilian sides are not crammed with those black and brown women.  [ETA: Yes, the shortage of cure is explained in the first book; they’re working on it, but it takes time.   Still no explanation for the main problem, though.]

But, that aside, it’s a good old-fashioned space navy romp, and there are non-white characters; just not any major point-of-view ones.  And not enough female ones.


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