Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whiny Boy Grows up: Burndive

Karin Lowachee's second book in her Warchild universe, Burndive, moves back from the frontier to focus on the son of Captain Azarcon.  His actual son with his wife, not any of the men or boys serving him on his battle ship that he treats with paternalistic concern.  Ryan has only rarely seen his father, with the absences from regular deployments exaggerated by the relativistic effects of the speed the space ships travel.

Ryan, recently named the #1 Hot Bachelor of his affluent space station, has always lived as a celebrity child.  His mother's family prominence in politics goes back generations, and his father is the often controversial and always newsworthy Captain Azarcon, adopted son of another politically important military family.  Ryan is a mess.  Already overwhelmed by the high and varied standards set by his relatives, his psyche is further depleted by the terrorist murders he saw on Earth and by the conflicting loyalties he feels when his bodyguard has an affair with his mother.  Eighteen, whiny, experimenting with drugs, Ryan's head is a claustrophobic place to be, even before his father swoops in to take him on-board after pirates target Azarcon's family in reaction to the events in Warchild.

Lowachee does a good job showing characters with different agendas and assumptions, with the mistakes they make because of misinformation and personal weaknesses.  At times it's hard to stay so close inside Ryan's viewpoint because of the excellent characterization.  Seeing characters from the earlier book is fun, since Ryan's evaluations come from such a different place than Jos's.  It's a gritty space opera, with much more emphasis on the damage war causes to people than on the adventure and space lasers. A-

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