cover image Though Hell Should Bar the Way

Though Hell Should Bar the Way

David Drake. Baen, $25 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8313-1

Drake’s 12th RCN military space adventure (after Death’s Bright Day) is disappointingly slow-moving, as newly recruited officer Roy Olfetrie spends an inordinate amount of time attending to ship maintenance before the action begins. Roy has left the naval academy on Cinnabar after his father’s disgrace, so he jumps at the chance to join the hero Capt. Daniel Leary on a diplomatic mission to the planet of Saguntum. At the outset, Roy spends much of his time in space conducting various minor or major repairs, delaying the excitement for the reader, but when the action does arrive, it rises to Drake’s usual high standards. Once reaching Saguntum, Roy is impressed onto another ship, captured by pirates, and then sold into slavery on the planet of ben Yusuf, where another dull stretch is mostly concerned with Roy’s ability to use the local computer to order supplies. All that remains is for Roy to effect his own escape while rescuing captive Monica Smith from the local admiral’s harem (a pulp throwback plot that pits the white heroes against stereotypical Arab-analogue antagonists) and return them both to Saguntum aboard a stolen vessel in time for the promised brouhaha to kick off there. This is a mixed bag at best, and even series fans may skim the long sections between exciting action scenes. (Apr.)