December 17, 2017

Review: Fire Season by David Weber & Jane Lindskold

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Feline-esque alien species are an under-appreciated realm of extraterrestrials in modern science fiction. And if the prevalence of kitten pics on ye ole internet is any indication, we just can’t get enough of cats. But alien races, such as Larry Niven’s Kzinti of his Known Space/Man Kzin Wars saga, show us just how disagreeable sentient alien cat species just might be.

Not so with this week’s offering. This week, we take a look at Fire Season by David Weber & Jane Lindskold. A Star Kingdom Novel out from Baen Books, Fire Season is a coming of age story set on a far off and lush alien world.  The sequel to Hal Clement Award winning classic novel A Beautiful Friendship, Fire Season is set in Weber’s popular Honor Harrington universe, which is often referred to by fans that are in the know as simply the “Honorverse.”

Fire Season is set on the world known as Sphinx which is dominated by the intelligent Treecat species. Stephanie Harrington has befriended the inquisitive and noble treecats and counts Lionheart and several others among her friends on the wooded world. Treecats are excellent climbers and just as at home thinking in the vertical mode as in the horizontal. Among their more curious attributes are telepathic communication and a predilection for celery… in fact, it’s like catnip to the Treecats!

Stephanie is in training as a ranger and protector of the forest of this world, even as exo-biologists struggle to study and understand the weird and wonderful creatures of the planet Sphinx.

Danger is brewing, however, in the form of the “fire season,” a time of enhanced dry climate on the usually lush world where things can and do burn very quickly after even the slightest spark. And to top it off, many of the new human arrivals are unaware of the dangers that Fire Season poses to the residents of Sphinx. We know… apparently, humanity didn’t take heart in Smokey the Bear’s message, or at least must have discarded it when we headed off towards the stars.

It’s up to Stephanie, her friend Karl Zivonik and her Treecat allies to save what they can, as Sphinx newcomer Anders Whittaker goes missing in the inferno that threatens to engulf the planet.  Stephanie may only be a provisional ranger, but she is also the only thing that stands between a species and a looming ecological catastrophe of planetary proportions.

Will she disobey orders to stay her post? Some great ethical dilemmas are at play here as she’s forced to grow up way too soon. We thought that Fire Season was a great bildungsroman coming of age tale, an action-packed read that swept us along like a firestorm up the flank of the Copperwall Mountains.

Be sure to read Fire Season, either on its own or as a must to complete any Honorverse fans’ collection!

Next week: we journey to the cutting edge of genetic engineering technology with a look at Life at the Speed of Light by J. Craig Venter, out now from Viking Press!

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