cover image Igniting the Reaches 3: Fireships

Igniting the Reaches 3: Fireships

David Drake. Ace Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00329-7

In the far future, the human inhabitants of Venus are menaced by a tyrannical government on Earth. Much as Elizabethan England was menaced by Spain, in fact, for this novel concludes a trilogy (Igniting the Reaches; Through the Breach) based on the career of Sir Francis Drake--not his ancestor, author Drake insists. The Englishman's futuristic incarnation, Piet Ricimer, has risen to the status of star-faring hero through his raids on Earth's interstellar colonies. This volume brings open war, as Ricimer's fleet ""singes the tyrant of Earth's beard"" and then defeats an outer-space armada with an arsenal that includes the unmanned, crash-diving ""fireships"" of the title. Most of the characterizations here lack originality, and the author's game of replaying Elizabethan history leads to some awkward world-building, tactics and weaponry. Unlike in Through the Breach, however, here the action scenes excel, perhaps because Drake forgoes that novel's first-person narration for a tougher third-person approach. A string of fine action scenes, however, isn't enough to distinguish a novel in today's action-packed SF market. Drake has done much better work, most recently in The Sharp End, and likely will again. (June)