Monday, October 01, 2012

Battle of the Books, Summer 2012, Second Round :: Faith by John Love vs. The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis

Our initial second round match of the Summer 2012 Battle of the Books pits Faith by John Love against The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis. The winner will be the book I most want to continue reading after the first 50 pages.

Faith: Night Shade Books trade paperback, January 2012, 373 pages, cover art by Adam Paquette. Faith, a science fiction space opera, is the first novel by British author John Love. Faith advanced to the second round by defeating My Vacation in Hell by Gene Twaronite.

A single unidentified, seemingly invincible space ship called Faith has been making unexplained raids on systems in the Commonwealth.

In the first 25 pages, Faith blew up a cruiser defending the Bast solar system, leaving one mortally wounded survivor. Then in the Anubis system, Faith took control of an automated freighter convoy. The military cruiser Wulf was disintegrating freighters to prevent Faith from crash landing them onto a moon base.

After the shrouded ship Faith passes, and Wulf turns to follow. The remaining freighters stop. Faith doesn't attack undefended civilian targets. But She faces and destroys Wulf.

Commander Foord and First Officer Thahl of the Outsider class space ship Charles Manson are ordered to defend the Horus system from Faith. They know what happened at Bast and at Anubis. They’re also aware of recent events in the Isis system, where five warships and the Outsider ship Sirhan encountered Faith. Faith easily disabled all the Isis ships. Sirhan picked up the survivors and left. Then Faith uncharacteristically subjected the city of De Vere to a smelly and humiliating, but not deadly, attack. Commander Ansah of the Sirhan, a former love interest of Commander Foord’s, is charged with desertion and cowardice. The book relates Ansah’s trial.

Once in the Horus system, Foord visits Thahl’s Sakhran (non-human) home.

It’s stressed that only an Outsider class ship fighting alone and unconstrained has a chance against Faith. The Outsider ships are outside the normal command structures, and crewed by outsiders, including sociopaths and psychopaths.

The Coldest War: Tor Books, July 2012, 251 pages, volume two of The Milkwood Triptych, cover art by Chris McGrath. The Coldest War is a fantasy alternate history book. The Coldest War got here by edging out Fair Coin by E.C. Myers in the first round.

British warlocks and a handful of Nazis with superhuman abilities powered by batteries secretly fought in World War II. The Soviet Union took over most of Western Europe. Britain remains a free country. The year is 1963.

In the first 25 pages, brother and sister Gretel and Klaus escaped from a high security Soviet research facility with some help from their superhuman abilities. In England, Reinhardt, whom the children call the Junkman, was trying to reverse engineer a battery to regain his special powers. William Beauclerk, younger brother of the Duke of Aelred, apparently did wicked things for Britain during the war.

When Klaus and Gretel arrive in London, Gretel, who is a seer, wants to go to a rummage sale. There they run into Reinhardt, their former Nazi associate. Reinhardt reluctantly leads Klaus and Gretel to his junky flat. Gretel shows Reinhardt that she has a blueprint for the batteries, something Reinhardt desperately wants. Gretel rips the blueprint and tells Reinhardt that he can earn the pieces by doing errands for her.

Raybould Marsh was formerly a British MI6 spy. He and his wife Liv have grown apart and their marriage is stressed by their caring for their severely impaired son. Marsh drinks alone in the pub until he’s belligerent and gets thrown out.

The Battle: We have a military space opera set sometime in the future going against book two of a fantasy alternate history series set in a different not too distant past.

Faith gets a brownie point for outrageously having a posh city sprayed with synthesized sewage. The Coldest War gets a brownie point for speculating a Soviet space station, and for Marsh having Haggard books stashed in his garden shed hideout.

Faith upped its game this round, but emotions seemed held in check. Ansah showed mainly indifference at her trial, and seemed resigned to her fate. Foord gave his concerns for Ansah their allotted time.

More emotions were at play in The Coldest War. Klaus realizes that he never truly understood what freedom meant. Reinhardt gets ticked off by Klaus and Gretel. Marsh rages at the world for what his life has become.

I’m curious about the next encounter with the mysterious ship Faith. But the richer setting and deeper emotions displayed in The Coldest War, despite my lack of knowing the entire back story due to my starting this series with book two, were enough to overcome Faith in this battle.


The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis will advance to meet either Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper or Taft 2012 by Jason Heller in the semifinals.

To see the whole bracket, click here.

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