The Apocalypse Troll, by David Weber
- Publisher : Baen; Reprint edition (January 5, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1982125128
- ISBN-13 : 978-1982125127
I should have known from the subtitle and the cover illustration that I wouldn’t like it. My book report contains spoilers, but don’t worry — if you actually are able to read more of it than I could then what you learn here won’t spoil anything at all.
The subtitle: UFOs vs. the U.S. Navy.
The cover (paperback & Kindle)
Presumably a view of part of a futuristic spaceship, with unidentifiable structures sticking out and scattered lights or maybe weapons fire. In the center is a “cutout” (as if the ship had been torn open) containing the image of an improbably structured human female, the blank look of a fanatic on her face, aiming a weapon from which two thin beams are pointing in two different directions. She’s backlit, wind blowing her hair, naked from her breasts down to a hint of some sort of hip-hugger bottom. She’s supposedly a Naval officer, so it’s puzzling why she would be wearing only a bra type top (yeah, I know that big boobs and lots of skin supposedly sells books but it would be nice to finally get beyond this particular cliché). She has no rib cage but does have impressive abdominal muscles.
The Troll of the title does not refer to the creature of mythology, more’s the pity. To be fair about all this, I’m not a great David Weber fan, so the cover and book title should have been enough to warn me off and I really shouldn’t be dissing the book. But so what.
My overall reaction
I found this book in the library last week, and last night I settled down to read something that wouldn’t tax my brain. I expected a space opera. Um. No. Suffice it to say that the Stuart Woods book I picked up after was a better read — and that’s not saying much. But the Woods book is a discussion is for another day. Or not.
So in brief: Too much description of multi-dimensional faster-than-light travel, the physics of that travel, and chases and battles. If technical isn’t your thing, then this book is no more fun to read than stories about the navy battles of WWII, what with all the descriptions of the ships, the maneuvers, deployment of weapons, etc.
The good guys come across the bad guys (a bunch of light years away) hot-footing it to somewhere and because the bad guys are going fast obviously the good guys commander has to divert her armada to give chase, even though her ships haven’t been serviced in a long time and the engines aren’t up to a hard chase.
Then it turns out that since the bad guys (not described, no useful explanation as to why they were bad guys) are going that fast, they must be aiming to travel back to Sol some 70,000 years in time, no doubt to get rid of pesky humans forever. This is a quick deduction based on very little information other than that when the bad guys were first noticed they were headed in the direction of Earth’s star, though the author takes great pains to describe how dicey all this trans-dimensional travel is for getting to specific places. The faster you go (passing through more and more dimensions) the less control you have and the more dangerous it is.
So… now not just faster than light but time travel too? Oh please no.
The hero/heroine – at last
So okay, finally the main character — a luscious but deadly and silent female — enters the picture, but only as a peripheral colonel who doesn’t seem to have any job in the military hierarchy. In a kind of afterthought, the author does mention this colonel is descended (yes, that was the word) from something called the Sigma Draconis First Wave (no explanation) and because of something this colonel has done in the past she wears a ribbon that entitles her to be saluted by everyone in the military, including senior officers (but no explanation of what she had done to earn it). Also if the commander saluted the colonel I apparently missed that.
When the armada reaches the edge of the target dimension, which nobody but the bad guys they were following had ever even thought of going through before, they engage in battle, lose most of the other ships and use up most of their weapons battling the bad guys. Either before or after the battle (I couldn’t tell) the bad guys go through the barrier into the unknown dimension, with the good guys following.
At this point, page 30, I skipped ahead to see what was going to happen. Apparently all or some of the remaining good guys and bad guys end up in the 20th century on Earth at the time of Sputnik instead of 70,000 years before that. The Sigma Draconis First Wave colonel has been mortally wounded, but her symbiote heals her and now she’s fighting for the 20th century US Navy…
Well, that was when I gave up for good.
Space operas can be fun. Some of the most beloved science fiction writers are masters of that niche genre. We expect them to be packed with clichés, to be melodramatic futuristic versions of traditional chivalry, with brave and attractive heroes risking themselves in the name of a Higher Concept. Oh, and with a little sex thrown in for spice.
The key is balance. Good space opera really can be good reading (or watching: Star Wars anyone?)
For me, The Apocalypse Troll is not that book. Maybe if I was more of a Tom Clancy or Stephen Hunter fan (and therefore into lots of technical detail), then this book of Weber’s will appeal. But I stopped reading Clancy and Hunter because come on — I do not want to know the details of anything at that level… especially not page after page of it!
I like balance in my space opera. Yeah, I want to know it’s the future and I want to get an idea of that technology, but I need more than that and battles. Bring on the melodrama! Bring me interaction between characters and hearts torn between the needs of the many vs. the needs of the few! Make me want to join up to fight for Truth, Justice, and the Human Way. Huzzah! Oorah! Hooyah!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this book review are my own and will not necessarily reflect the experience of any other readers of the book. Don’t agree with me? Then post your own review on your own blog.