Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tour of the Merrimack, by R. M. Meluch

Tour of the Merrimack: Volume Two, by R. M. Meluch Tour of the Merrimack: Volume One, by R. M. Meluch

Straight up military space opera often feels a lot like a B action movie, and the Tour of the Merrimack is no exception. The Volume One omnibus comprises two novels, The Myriad and Wolf Star, and is followed by Volume Two which contains The Sagittarius Command and Strength and Honor. Set over 400 years in the future, the Roman Empire never actually fell but simply went underground as a secret society and survived throughout the ages. When America colonizes a planet named Palantine and the Romans come out of hiding and rebel, a space-borne civil war erupts. That conflict immediately stops and causes enemies to ally when a truly alien race called the Hive appears and threatens humanity itself.

The setup is fairly interesting and Meluch does a good job of depicting uneasy allies, but other than the plot there isn't a lot to recommend here. The novels are riddled with contradictions. Despite being much more advanced technologically than the US, the Romans can't seem to build battleships that can stand up to the Merrimack or her sister ship the Monitor. The Romans claim their society survived hidden for centuries because they passed their secrets down through the years to worthy individuals regardless of race, color, sex, or creed, yet when they arose again they immediately reintroduced slavery to the universe. The Hive are depicted as omnivores that exist only to eat and destroy and are vicious enough to force bitter enemies to come together to survive, but fairly easily dispatched by our heroes who just happen to be armed with swords. In space. Yup.

The plot structure is by far the best part about this series. The entire first novel is basically foreshadowing for the next two and there is a great twist at the end. The action is fantastic as well—hard not to like US marines in space fighting tentacle monsters with blades—and exhaustingly non-stop. There is a smidge of political intrigue as well and some of the most awkward romances I've ever read, but it is the fast moving adventure that makes this worth the time. These four novels make for an entertaining read, but thin enough that I'm not going to seek out the fifth.

First Sentence (from The Myriad):
A nightmare runs over and over again in a loop.
First Sentence (from Wolf Star):
"Occultation, nine by twenty-five by eighty-eight," the tech at the sensor station rang out.
First Sentence (from The Sagittarius Command):
The harsh white sun and the softer yellow day star shone directly overhead.
First Sentence (from Strength and Honor):
Lieutenant Glenn (Hamster) Hamilton was Officer of the Watch when the Emergency Action Message came in.

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