Orphan's Alliance (Jason Wander 4) by Robert Buettner

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Orphan's Alliance (Jason Wander 4) by Robert Buettner

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: Another fun shoot ‘em up style romp through space. Unfortunately, the sub-plots of family and politics do take away from the action and make it slightly less fun than other books in the series.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: January 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841497525

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Chris Bunch was the first to make the sci-fi space army genre his own, but Robert Buettner is certainly following close behind. Whilst I've always preferred Bunch's work over Buettner's, that by no means makes Buettner a bad writer and his work has always been enjoyable. Once again, Buettner has included much of what makes his work so much fun to read.

In Oprhan's Alliance, the fourth in the series, Jason Wander has finally had enough of trolling around the galaxy fighting mankind's old enemy, the Slugs. Having watched and helped the Tressen army win a war against the Iridians on one of Earth's new outposts, he's decided he wants to spend some more time on Earth with his godson, Jude. His superior officers have other plans, however, and whilst he gets the chance to be together with Jude, he has to do it out in deep space as they undertake the next mission together.

In theory, it's a simple enough mission. They need to sort out the arguing that's going on between races on both Tressel and Bren. Both planets have been through wars, but they aren't finding peace much more peaceful. Bren is particularly important thanks to its production of Cavorite, which is vital as ship fuel and to help build the Mousetrap, a point of huge strategic importance for travelling between the galaxies Earth now controls.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Jude decides he likes the almost communist policies of the new Tressen leadership and stays behind, undoing all Jason's hopes that they would get to know each other better. Even more serious is when the excavation of Mousetrap unearths an ancient Slug homing beacon and Jason is once more at war with the Slugs.

Orphan's Alliance is a lot slower paced than others I've read in the Jason Wander series. At a point in his Last Legion series, Chris Bunch dipped into more political fighting than actual fighting and I felt that the action quotient of his writing suffered when this happened. The same is true here, as politics naturally moves at a slower pace than war and that made Orphan's Alliance a far slower read than some of the other books.

Fortunately, this isn't true of the whole book and there are some very exciting scenes. When Wander is involved with the wars on Tressen and Mousetrap, we get to see the best that Buettner has to offer. He writes incredibly vividly and you can almost see and hear the explosions of battle. Whilst the war on Tressen plays more to his strengths, being a war on the ground of the type he's used to putting Wander in the middle of, he writes the debris of war even more effectively in the air war around Mousetrap.

The one thing that has improved over the series is Wander's dealings with his colleagues. I criticised Orphanage, the first in the series, for not showing us enough of the rare down time that Wander got to have. Here, there is much more of that and we get to share his enjoyment of catching up with old colleagues, who are now involved in other jobs rather than just the fighting. After all the political parts and the emotional family side of things, this acted as a welcome change of pace, allowing for some humour to sneak in and lighten the tone. I particularly enjoyed the image conjured by the thought of a pilot being able to parallel park a huge spaceship.

The one exception to this side of things was the romantic sub-plot between Wander and Rear Admiral Mimi Ozawa. It wasn't badly written and it seemed quite reasonable in terms of the character development, but it felt a little as if it had been used to fill in a couple of parts. This part of the story wasn't quite so well developed as the other parts of the story and it felt as if it was simply bits and pieces of a story rather than a sub-plot in its own right. The only time this part of the story really came to the fore was right at the end of the book and I felt it gave an overly saccharine end to the book which wasn't really in keeping with the tone of what had gone before and was the most disappointing aspect of this book for me.

Orphan's Alliance is another decent read and it was good to see a familiar character put into slightly unfamiliar territory and it was good to see him as a person more than a soldier. Unfortunately, in doing so, Buettner has had to sacrifice some of the more exciting aspects of his stories to make room for this and I think the balance wasn't quite as even as it could have been, or as I would have liked. This is certainly isn't the best book to be starting the series on as it's the weakest in the series I've read so far, but Buettner's eye for an idea and a story is such that even at his worst, you still get a fairly decent read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy fast paced space wars, you will also enjoy Chris Bunch's Last Legion series.

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