Hopefully you have had the joyous pleasure of playing the old PC based space strategy game – Master of Orion and its successors … otherwise known as MOO I – MOO III? If not you are really missing out on something really enjoyable and in a similar fashion to Civilization (and its successors) a game that truly makes you experience the agony of the “just one more turn” syndrome!
If you have enjoyed these games though, you will find that The Shiva Option brings back some extremely fond memories and recollections. The whole space combat experience and the obvious inclusion of the specified races such as the Terrans and Orions is very similar to the races mentioned in that game. Now while there are some (many) similarities – The Shiva Option is actually based on another game entirely called Starfire which was a surprise to me.
While I enjoyed this book primarily because of its similarity to a game (as mentioned above), for that same reason it is quite likely that someone else will be turned off as this book very much reads like a historical treatise and an exposition of hundreds of different small scale military campaigns in the course of the war against the bugs. A sequel to “In Death Ground” – by the same writing team, the Grand Alliance of Terrans, Orions, Gorm and Ophuichi has suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Bugs during the Pesthouse Campaign. Many senior military commanders have been lost, along with the bulk of the Terran Federation pre-war fleet and it is in this perilous universe that The Shiva Option takes place.
Unable to communicate with the Bugs and locked in a war of mutual annihilation, the Grand Alliance realises that the war has become a fight for the survival of their species, and for the first time since their war with the Rigelians, they invoke Directive 18 – which comes to be knows and the “Shiva Option”.
The story progresses in a fairly standard pattern, with members of the Alliance stumbling across one of the five Bug Home Hives, building up an overwhelming force of ships and personal and then proceeding towards its destruction. The bugs throw everything they have in its defense, and just when it looks like they might prevail, the humans (or, less commonly Orions) come up with something that turns the tables and enables them to apply the Shiva Option. There is some character growth and development, but unfortunately most of the primary characters (the Admirals) are portrayed as almost “forces of nature” and while the storyline of the pilot is good it is too limited to really grab you. Surprisingly, the “thoughts” of the bugs are quite possibly the most interesting and while the under reaction in certain situations is annoying “listening” to what they are planning and seeing the reactions from the Alliance members is cool!
Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds
Quotation from the Bhagavad Gita famously quoted by J. Robert Oppenheimer upon witnessing the detonation of the first atomic bomb.
The actual battles and campaigns are really well written and interesting, but after a while a count of the number of ships damaged and destroyed starts to pale, as there is no one actually on those boats that we care about or even know for that matter! However, if this was a game that was played out and then written up, I would have loved to have seen it as the fleet sizes in some of these battles was truly awe inspiring.
Once the members of the Star Union actually join up with the Grand Alliance forces – their decision to actually take the battle to the bugs on their colonized planets finally brings home some sense of reality and scope to the story and while it is probably not realistic for a space faring civilization to become a non-intelligent food source in only 1-2 generations, the care that members of the Star Union have for their cousins is very well portrayed.