John Ringo’s Troy Rising trilogy (I’m still hoping that there will be a fourth book! 🙂 ) is one of my favorites and one that I keep coming back to whenever I need a “pick me up”. It’s got everything you could possibly ask for in Military SciFi
- inscrutable aliens? … CHECK
- huge space battles? … CHECK
- insurmountable odds? … CHECK
- cool technology? … CHECK
- humanity triumphant? … CHECK
I’ve read each book a couple of times now and have also listened to the excellent Audio format which gives a certain different nuance to the characters. Each book is slightly different – and while there is overlap in terms of viewpoints in books 1&2, it is different enough to still keep you engaged. I’ve already written a couple of reviews of other books (Von Neuman’s War & Into the Looking Glass) by Ringo but I realized I’d not included this series and I think its one that definitely needs to be listed here.
The First book in the Trilogy tells the story of Earth’s first contact with the rest of the Universe. It does an excellent job of describing what impact this sort of a first contact would have on our own IT industry (basically decimating it) and also on the whole field of SciFi too … this is actually really cool as most books don’t really cover this element at all and in fact tend to ignore it completely!
When an alien race “takes the orbitals” however, Earth is relegated to nothing more than a slave race and unfortunately options are limited. Fortunately for humanity however, not everyone has given up and one good ole southern boy – Tyler Vernon – discovers a trading item that another race of Galactics desperately want (by the way, you might find in other SciFi titles references to “Maple Syrup” being the ultimate trading good … well, this is the book that introduces it!) which funnily enough happens to be something that we all enjoy on our pancakes – namely Maple Syrup. In the Maple Syrup wars he’s able to get one race of Galactics (the Glatun federation) onto Earth’s side and they help him kick out the Horvath – the aliens that were previously using Earth as slave labor.
Tyler quickly sets up an orbital infrastructure to diversify his holdings and further increase Earth’s abilities. Called the “Sapple” this mining laser that is powered by the Earth’s sun is able to literally cut apart the next Horvath vessel that chooses to attack the Earth. The Horvath however have left some surprises for Earth in the form of tailored viruses that decimate the population on Earth so we don’t get off completely scot-free by any means.
Tyler realizes that the only way to truly protect Earth is by blocking access through the gate itself … to do this he creates a monstrous battle ship (in my eyes similar in size/shape to the Death Star) which he inflates from a nickel-iron asteroid. With walls that are over 1.5km thick and a circumference that is just shy of 10km and the ability to utilize the Sapple itself as a weapon, this immense base completely decimates the next fleet of starships sent against Earth. Named the Troy, this base becomes the primary defense of Humanity.
While Citadel is a continuation of Live Free of Die, the first half of the book actually repeats a significant portion of the elements of Live Free or Die, however this time from a completely different point of view, that of Dana and Butch. In all honesty while their stories are interesting I missed Tyler and the fact that he was only included in the latter half of the book made this one my least favorite of the three.
Dana is trained as an Engineer but eventually becomes a hot shot pilot and Butch is an optical welding technician. While they are probably introduced to appeal to another different (younger) audience and help explain the impact of the Johansen virus on humanity, they actually end up taking away from the most interesting character in the story – namely Tyler Vernon who only really shows up in the latter half of the book. In addition, while probably important to some people, the majority of this book seems to focus on military rules and regulations which are nothing if not boring!
Fortunately when Tyler does show up, the book really does pick up again and while the Horvath seem to have been defeated, their partners – the Rangora – are now on the scene. Previously portrayed as an aggressive species looking to expand throughout the sector, the Rangora set their sights on Earth’s friends and allies the Glatun. In addition, they decide they need to remove the upstarts on the galactic scene – those pesky Humans!
With some quite interesting insights into the aliens and their overall understanding of humanity and Earth’s capabilities, the Rangora high command send two separate waves of attacks against the Humans. Their second attack involves a fleet of their largest ships – called AV’s (Assault Vectors) they are specialized in storming defended gates. Tyler however has not been idle and while Troy was enough to rebuff the earlier Horvath and Rangora attacks he’s realized that more will be needed if Earth is to remain secure.
Thermopylae is Earth’s second battlesphere and with the modifications made to it and Troy, Earth is once again triumphant defeating the vicious alien horde!
The third and currently final book in the Troy Rising cycle is the Hot Gate. Once again it starts off on a somewhat different tangent – namely that of Dana’s character being moved from the Troy to the Thermopylae to “help” improve their abilities. Ringo is always pro-America in all of his books and this one too is no exception so when the Thermopylae was crewed by primarily Alliance personnel – people from South America and other European countries, they unfortunately did not have as high a performance rating as their American counterparts. I’m not sure if I would 100% agree with his assumptions here, but at the same time I can’t 100% disagree so I’ll leave that aside.
Butch is notably absent from this book and while there might be a budding romance between Dana and Tyler it isn’t really explored to a significant extent. What is explored with perhaps too much detail is again the military rules and regulations and also diplomacy or the lack thereof between the Humans and the Rangora. While Citadel ended with a mobile Troy able to traverse the gate network, the Hot Gate took way to long to get to the meat of the matter and the eventual confrontation between the forces of light (Humanity) and dark (Rangora).
Once we get to this point though … boy-oh-boy, hold onto your socks! The action is fast and furious and just when you think defeat is imminent, Humanity manage to pull out one other trick.
While I didn’t think this one was as good as the first book – Live Free or Die – it was one I definitely enjoyed more than book two (Citadel). I am however very curious about a possible addition to the trilogy as while the sequence does seem fairly complete, there is room I think to continue writing in this universe (perhaps an outside force that threatens Humanity and the Rangora forcing them to work together?).
Overall an extremely good series and one that will keep you entertained for quite a few days. Without a doubt one of my favorite Ringo books and Military SciFi in general.
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