cover image Igniting the Reaches

Igniting the Reaches

David Drake. Ace Books, $18.95 (262pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00026-5

A thousand years after the Collapse, a galaxy-wide depression that killed billions, rival factions from Venus and Earth are poised to retake the stars--and the wealth to be gained from trafficking in the resources found there. Stephen Gregg is a triggerman with a conscience, capable of gunning down hundreds during battle and then, moments later, standing aghast at his capacity to kill. His partner, Piet Ricimer, is a young pilot who sees interstellar trade as the fulfillment of God's plan. Together they lead merchants from Venus who compete with traders from Earth for the booty of alien slaves and scarce microchips to be found among the distant planets. Intended to recall Earth's Age of Discovery, the story evokes both the uncertainty of exploration and its questionable morality. Primitive navigation leaves ships adrift among the stars, and commerce becomes little more than an excuse for bloody turf battles. Drake ( Hammer's Slammers ) uses military language fluently to create vivid combat scenes and adds such touches as crews that sing ``Onward Christian Soldiers'' while descending into battle. The novel is ultimately limited, however, by the main characters' lack of real engagement in the moral questions their actions provoke. (Apr.)