Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G. Nutall review

    THE ONCOMING STORM is the first book of the ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND series, which I admit seems to be a little wordy for a series title. Especially since there's nothing wrong with calling the series the KAT FALCONE series or even C.S.S. LIghtning series. It's a space opera series with obvious roots in the HONOR HARRINGTON series by David Weber but I don't think that's a bad thing as I cut my teeth on those books. I've also felt that series has gotten away from its central concept of a kickass female naval commander IN SPACE.

    The premise is Kat Falcone is the youngest daughter of an extraordinarily rich megacorporation dynasty who tried to get away from her family's patronage, only to be unwillingly promoted to Captain at 29 due to those very connections. Now doubly determined to prove her worth when everyone knows she's benefited from nepotism, she gets her chance with the assignment of her superdreadnought to the planet Cadiz. Cadiz is a conservative world which basically amounts to being Iraq in SPACE and it's being incompetantly run by a decadent Admiral who wants to avoid war at all costs. War is going to happen no matter what, though, because of the sinister Theocracy.

    I must admit the politics of this book left me a bit cold. As the left-leaning anarchist that I am, using the War on Terror as a basis for a conflict between Good and Evil is something I have more than a few issues with. The Theocracy is composed of a bunch of boo-hiss villains who are just this side of ISIS and the Commonwealth is a heroic band of do-gooders out to defend their way of life. It leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth as I've lost friends in the war and had others traumatized. Nevertheless, I'm not a person to get bogged down in the politics behind a work unless it's morally repugnant. Besides, given the premise of "Cadiz was a *********** from beginning to end", I can't really can't say I disagree with said message.

    Kat Falcone is a tremendously fun protagonist and easily the kind I could see being played by someone like Emilia Clarke as an action movie. She's supremely dedicated to her job but not the point of seeming inhuman. Kat is also someone who occasionally makes mistakes, though she succeeds more often than not. Accusations of her being a Mary Sue would fail, too, as she has a limited area of expertise. When she gets caught in a ground-side terrorist attack, she's able to handle herself but not to the point of somehow becoming a Marine.

    I also appreciate how the book handles class as Kat comes from an incredibly privileged position but that causes as many problems as it solves. Her commanding officer, William, was passed up for a command position because of Kat's father pulling strings and justifiably resents her for it. He's a character she manages to win over, eventually, but someone who remains nicely prickly as a result. I also liked his relationship with his smuggler brother, even though I tend to side with Scott more than I do William. His brother left his homeworld because the town gave his girlfriend up to slavers in exchange for safety. I'd want to burn down my hometown and everyone in it for that.

    The Oncoming Storm is full of action, suspense, and even more than a little intrigue. It has a great protagonist and decent supporting cast too. Not all of it makes sense from a naval perspective like Kat's not-so-hidden relationship with her Marine captain but I'm willing to make some accommodations for acceptable breaks from reality. I just wish the Theocracy wasn't such a collection of cardboard cutout villains.


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